The BMC school at Rafiq Nagar stands testimony to the blatant non-compliance of schools with the 2009 Right to Education (RTE) Act, which provides for 25% reservation in all government-aided and specified schools as well as private schools for ‘ disadvantaged’ students from around the school’s neighbourhood.
After much convincing from NGOs, when parents from the slums of Rafiq Nagar line up at the BMC school for admissions, they return disappointed. Many parents, though illiterate, are often accompanied by NGO representatives or some educated person from the area, reminding the school of its obligation to give their children admission in accordance with the RTE Act, to which school authorities often turn a deaf ear.
“We have been taking children from our school, after training them with basic language and math, to enrol in BMC schools, but the administration always turns us down, stating reasons like ‘full classrooms’ or ‘ child won’t be able to cope up with studies’, etc,” said Fr Paul, director, Karunya trust, an NGO that runs ‘Gyaansathi’ an informal school.
Shashi Joshi, principal, Rafiq Nagar BMC School, argued that the children from the dump yard brought in by NGOs have never received a formal education and often create a ruckus in school, owing to their ‘upbringing’. “We have no problem admitting these kids to our school. But, as they have no knowledge of basics, it becomes embarrassing for us during inspection time. They make the school look bad,” said Joshi.
In addition to denying admission, the formation of the mandatory school management committee (SMC) too is incomplete. Under the RTE Act, all public schools have to form a management committee with representation from parents, teachers and activists from NGOs, and work just the way Parent-Teacher Associations do in private schools. It has the responsibility of looking over education and quality of hygiene, attendance of teachers, stationery distribution etc.
“We have been trying to get the school to register educated parents from the slums as candidates for SMC elections. But nothing has been done,” said Rose Joseph, project manager, Karunya Trust.
The 25% reservation rule was implemented for government-aided private schools as well. However, Jafri School, one of the largest private schools in Shivaji Nagar, has persistently denied admission to children living in slums. “People who come for admissions do so in the middle of the year. A certain protocol needs to be followed. We can’t break this,” said Ajex Verghese, principal.