After clearing a proposal to hand over the management of civic schools to private organisations and NGOs, the civic body has introduced yet another controversial policy. This time, it has proposed to hand over plots reserved for municipal schools to private parties.
As per the policy introduced on Thursday, half the area of a private plot that has been reserved for construction of a municipal school can now be developed by private players. The private party can build a private school on this reserved area. In return, the private entity will build a municipal school on the remaining plot.
Earlier, such plots were given to a private developer after receiving a no-objection certificate from the education officer stating that the area does not need a municipal school. It was mandatory for the school to admit 30% students based on recommendations from the civic officer. However, there are allegations that the quota was never respected.
"We are bringing this change in policy to follow the recommendations made by the Right to Education (RTE) Act. As per the stipulated classroom to student ratio, we need 580 more classrooms. Hence, we need the change in policy as the civic body does not have enough infrastructures to build schools," said Milin Sawant, deputy municipal commissioner (improvements).
Ashraf Azami of the SP was among the few who opposed the proposal, calling it a ploy to dole out plots to private players. "We have already passed the proposal to hand over our present schools to NGOs… So, the new schools built will also go under these private organisations," said Azami. He alleged that the coexistence of a private and municipal school will never work due to class difference between students. "[If] we can allot thousands of crores for other BMC projects, why can't we bring in money to build our own schools," he asked.
Education activists also reacted cautiously. "I have not read the policy change document completely, but I smell something fishy. It could be a ploy to gift away BMC land under the pretext of public-private partenership," said Nitin Wadhvani, anchor, Mumbaiites for Child Rights.