Rajesh Sawant, 10, who studies in a civic school, got the chance to study in the air-conditioned classrooms of Oberoi International School in Goregaon for 10 days two years ago. Sawant was part of Oberoi International’s community outreach programme. Sawant’s mother is a house help who earns Rs5,000 a month. But after the state’s decision to implement the 25% reservation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act this year, Sawant hopes that his dream of going back to Oberoi International School will come true.
“Apart from studying in an air-conditioned classroom, I loved playing football on the big ground” said Sawant, a resident of Navbharat Sahyog Society in Goregaon that was built under the slum redevelopment scheme. “I can’t wait to go back if I get a chance,” he added.
While schools and parents of children studying in these schools have been lamenting about the Act changing classroom dynamics, no one has asked these children, the real beneficiaries of the Act, what they feel about being in the big school.
Like Sawant, most poor parents that HT spoke to felt the RTE Act gives their children an opportunity to go beyond their means. As Farida Lambay, co-founder of Pratham that works towards educating underprivileged children said, “The gravest misconception is that we cannot have equity; that certain children are meant to be in government schools and others in private schools. This is not about our children and their children.”
The Act envisages creating a country of equals, but how far will schools and parents bend to make this a reality? "All children would love to come to an international school. But do schools have seats to accommodate these students? Parents and students from affluent families will have to be counselled for this," said Vandana Lulla, principal, Podar International School, Santacruz.