The state cabinet’s decision to implement the policy whereby all schools will have to admit poor student up to 25% of their class strength, has caused a ripple of dismay among private schools.
However, there are schools that have been successfully creating integrated classrooms even before the Right To Education (RTE) Act, which mandates the 25% quota, came into place.
At Father Agnel School in Vashi, students are admitted from a nearby orphanage and the school covers their costs. Their lottery system also ensures that children of PhD holders and of peons might very well be in the same class.
“We get a good mix of children,” said Nina Jacob, principal of the school. “It is tough of course, especially since some of the children have difficulty with English as the language of instruction. It takes a lot of effort, but we make it work.”
With children sharing the same space and going through the same daily routine day in and day out, they learn to adjust with each other.
“Children from different backgrounds are able to relate to each other without any difficulty, the interaction is very healthy,” said Father Francis Swamy, principal of Holy Family School in Andheri. Swamy said his school admits more than 25% of students from poorer sections. Holy Family has a Marathi and English section in the same school. Unaided schools are concerned about classroom dynamics and whether children from poorer families will be able to adjust with children from more affluent ones.
Shubhadra Ghosh, a housemaid whose two sons study at Father Agnel School in Bandra, said that sometimes other students make comments about her profession. “Some of the other parents have businesses or practice other professions but no one else’s parent works as a maid in other people’s homes. Sometimes other students make comments about this but my children are happy at the school.”
At Campion School in Cooperage, often considered among the city’s elite schools, the fees of poor students from the neighbourhood are paid for from the school’s fund.