Last June, Yash Chawla (name changed), a Class 3 student, had to move from a private school to a civic one as his father, a taxi driver, could not afford the fees.
“The PTA of the school did not want a taxi driver’s son to study in the school and the student was expelled,” said Arundhati Chavan, president of the PTA United Forum. The forum tried to intervene, but the principal was adamant.
The Right to Education Act (RTE) makes it compulsory for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to be given free elementary education. But activists say it has not yet been implemented fully in the state.
The biggest bone of contention is the 25% reservation for economically weaker sections in private schools. “There will be cultural differences and students from the less-privileged backgrounds will not be able to mix with other students,” said Seema Buch, principal, Gundecha Academy. “It is better to teach them separately after school hours.”
While the state government is to pay the fees for these children, it is not clear how much money it would spend. “The state can’t afford the fees of private schools,” said an official.
But some differ. Father Agnel’s Multipurpose School, Vashi, provides free education to children from an orphanage. To overcome its annual deficit of Rs9 lakh, it asks parents to sponsor a child's fee.