Close to 74.2% seats meant to be set aside for students from the economically weaker sections (EWS) have not been filled up for the academic year 2013-14 in schools across the city, revealed a query sought under the Right to Information Act. Many of the schools were found not to have filled even a single seat under the EWS quota mandated by the Right to Education Act (RTE).
All schools except for unaided minorities have to mandatorily provide free education to 25% EWS students at entry level under the RTE act.
Out of 12, 818 available seats under the quota in Mumbai, only 3,308 seats have been filled; 9,510 seats remained vacant, found the query filed by Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena on December 11, 2014.
Maximum numbers of unfilled seats - 1, 406, were found in schools in the Western Zone, stretching from Bandra to Dahisar. While, 1, 156 seats were unfilled in the North Zone (Central Suburbs) and South Zone (South Mumbai).
The RTI data showed that many of the most sought after English medium schools have not even admitted a single student under the RTE. Schools had cited reasons such as not receiving any applications from EWS students or non-availability of EWS students in their neighbourhood, for having unfilled seats.
However, activists say that it is highly unlikely that there were no takers for these seats. ‘’It’s impossible that students did not apply for admission to these schools, especially when they can get good quality education free of cost,’’ said Chetan Pednekar, member of MNVS. ‘’The department should have conducted an inquiry or taken action against schools that have not admitted any students under RTE.’’
Many schools were also found not to have followed the RTE admissions schedule given by the department that asked schools to publicise the seats in their neighbourhood and displaying notices on the school notice board inviting applications.
‘’Atleast 14 renowned schools in the western zone had violated RTE by not publicising their seats or rejecting the applications of students on some or the other pretext,’’ said SM Paranjape, member of the Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti that has been protesting against inaction by the department.
However, NB Chavan, deputy director of education, Mumbai division blamed the low admission numbers on students not applying to Marathi medium schools. ‘’Nowadays, everyone is aspiring to study in English medium schools, including the EWS. Hence, they did not apply to regional medium schools including Marathi.’’