No posh schools for disadvantaged kids anymore | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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No posh schools for disadvantaged kids anymore

Feb 16, 2024 05:44 PM IST

Students from economically backward homes in Maharashtra will have no access to private schools from the 2024-25 academic year, as the state’s school education department has amended the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, (RTE)

Mumbai: Students from economically backward homes in Maharashtra will have no access to private schools from the 2024-25 academic year, as the state’s school education department has amended the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, (RTE). This was published in the department’s gazette on Thursday.

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A disadvantaged child will not be eligible for an unaided school in his or her respective area under 25% RTE quota if there is a government or government-aided school within one kilometre radius. The amendment will deprive children from this strata the opportunity to study in English medium private schools.

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Over the last decade five lakh underprivileged children in the state have accessed education in private schools through RTE.

An official source from the education department said the push for the amendment was inevitable as the state owes 1,463 crore to private schools as fee reimbursement for RTE admissions for the last 12 years. According to the law, private schools are entitled for reimbursement equal to actual expense per child or government expense per child, whichever is less. This amount is would have crossed 2000 crore if the act was not amended.

The official added, the step was taken as a minister in the present government continued to block the payment to private schools.

Educationists said the new amendment violated the RTE act, “whitewashing operators of private institutions”. Karnataka made a similar move which was challenged in court; the verdict is pending in Supreme Court.

Kishore Darak, an educationist said, “Section 12 of RTE makes it mandatory for all private schools to accept a minimum of 25% children from weaker sections to Class 1 and educate them till Class 8. I wonder how a state government can issue a notification amending RTE rules, nullifying the law of the Union. The notification contradicts RTE in its current form and hence may be struck down by legal authorities.”

Tushar Mahajan, deputy secretary, school education department, said, “The act was passed by the central government in 2009. In 2011, the state government formulated detailed rules mandating all private schools to allocate 25% of their admissions to the quota. Our current plan is to bolster government and government-aided schools with increased funding and improved infrastructure. We wish to make government schools more appealing to parents with the objective of providing free education to students.”

The gazette also underscored those private unaided schools who wished to participate in the process from the next academic year will not be eligible for reimbursement under the Act.

Welcoming the state’s decision, SC Kedia, secretary, Unaided Schools’ Forum, Mumbai, said, “We have been advocating this to the state school education authorities for quite some time. If seats in government and aided schools are full and any student within a one-kilometer radius is without a school, we are prepared to enrol them in our schools. However, the implementation of RTE is flawed. Seats in public schools remain vacant while we see competition for RTE admissions, which goes against the spirit of the law.”

The Centre’s mandate

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, (RTE) mandated that all government aided private schools reserve 25% seats for students from economically weaker sections (EWS). If an aided or government school failed to accommodate students in their surrounding areas, then an unaided school in the vicinity must reserve 25% seats for the students from the EWS.

The state’s execution

The state government disregarded the mandate for unaided schools, and instituted a blanket rule to reserve 25% free seats for children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in all private unaided primary schools.

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