Mumbai schools say certain Right to Education (RTE) Act norms – such as one teacher for every 30 to 35 students and boundary walls enclosing campuses on all fours sides – are impossible to comply with in a space-starved metropolis such as Mumbai.
Boundary walls and student-teacher ratios are just two of the RTE norms schools must conform to if they are to conduct classes this year, but many institutions have asked the state government to come up with a feasible alternative.
“It is one thing for the RTE Act to lay down such norms, but the government needs to consider how feasible they are for city schools to implement,” said Arif Khan, principal of Ahmed Sailor High School, Byculla, which stands on the congested Dimtimkar Road. “We have main roads at the front and back of the school, and buildings on either side, so there is no room to for a boundary wall,” he added.
Other schools said they have neither the funds nor the infrastructure to hire more teachers and meet the specific student-teacher ratios. Under the RTE Act, schools must have one teacher for every 30 students from Classes 1 to 5, one teacher for every 35 students from Classes 6 to 8, and only one teacher per classroom.
“We have as many as 50 students and one teacher per classroom,” said Sudha Nair, principal of the English-medium Vile Parle Mahila Sangh School. “To achieve the ratio required under RTE, we will need to increase the number of classrooms, but we do not have space for this,” she added.
Anjana Prakash, principal of Hansraj Morarji Public School, Andheri, also said that the school cannot meet the student-teacher ratio. “The government is not giving approvals for more teachers, while there is a constant pressure to admit more students. How can we be expected to follow these norms?” she asked. “We are meeting all the norms except for the ratio.”
Nand Kumar, principal secretary of the school education department, admitted that these norms will be for city schools to comply with. “Considering the nature of our city, in which the number of people is growing every day, it will certainly be difficult for schools to have compound walls,” said Kumar. “We will look into the issue and see what can be done.”