With more than 21 lakh students studying in 4,000 schools, the city’s classrooms are bursting at the seams, but adding more divisions is not an option.
Requests to break classrooms into additional sections are turned down by the state government because of paucity of funds.
Permissions are only given to start schools on a permanently unaided basis.
However, unaided divisions have higher fees as schools will not receive any salary or non-salary grants for them.
“The government has stopped giving aid to schools since 2004. This was done because of a shortage of funds and any new school or division now can only come up on a permanently unaided basis,” said a senior official from the school education and sports department.
Schools are stuck as they fear starting unaided divisions will not solve their problems.
“Those who apply to aided schools have a limited budget. They are looking for education free of cost or at an affordable rate. It is not possible to offer this in unaided divisions,” said one school principal.
“Even if we start unaided divisions, we will still continue to get more applications for aided divisions and those classrooms will continue to be overcrowded,” said Father Jude Fernandes, principal of St Stanislaus School, Bandra.
Schools are also facing an acute shortage of teaching staff, making it even harder to achieve the student-teacher ratio of 30 students to a teacher under the RTE Act.
This leads many schools to start classrooms where children from different grades sit together and are taught by the same teacher.
According to the 2012-13 Annual Status of Education Report from the non-profit group Pratham, 46.5% schools made students from Class 4 and 52% made children from Class 2 sit with students of another class.
Academics said such classrooms are not appropriate for students as, if not handled properly, could lead to a great deal of confusion.
“Teachers are only taught a little bit about classrooms during their diploma in education. It becomes difficult for them to be effective when handling different age groups at the same time,” said Ramesh Joshi, leader of the BMC teachers union. Joshi added that government needs to start regular training for teachers to help them handle such classes.