Pvt schools must provide devices, internet to poor students for online classes: Delhi govt tells HCUpdated: May 23, 2020 23:35 IST
New Delhi: If Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category students in private schools are unable to access classes online during the lockdown due to lack of devices or internet, schools should ensure or provide the same for students, the state government has submitted in the Delhi High Court.
The submission was made by the Directorate of Education (DOE) on Friday evening in response to a plea filed by Justice For All, an NGO, which contended that several students belonging to the EWS and disadvantaged groups (DG) were unable to access classes online due to the lack of availability of these devices. The NGO contended that the decision of private, unaided schools to conduct online classes would affect over 50,000 students who cannot afford laptops, phones or high-speed internet connections.
All private and government schools, universities and educational institutions are shut due to the nationwide lockdown, put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) disease and classes are being held online.
The state government’s submission came on a notice by a Delhi High Court bench of Justices Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula, to the Centre, the Delhi government, the city’s municipal corporations and a few private unaided schools on May 8 seeking a response on the matter. Earlier this month, Hindustan Times had reported that EWS students enrolled in private schools are struggling to keep up with classes online due to logistical issues and have been unable to take their exams as well.
Advocate Shikha Bagga, secretary at Justice For All, said Saturday: “The affidavit filed by the Delhi government in the high court clearly mentions that it is the duty of schools to ensure no child is deprived of education online due to lack of material required for attending online classes. The Union of India is bound to release funds for reimbursement as proscribed under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.”
The counter affidavit submitted by the Delhi government mentions that as per Section 12(1)(c) of the Right of Children To Free And Compulsory Education Act, 2009, “it is the obligation of the private unaided schools to provide the aforesaid facilities to EWS/DG category students admitted in their schools.” The department further stated that costs, if any, incurred by the state on account of the said reimbursement to schools, would have to be borne by central government as per Section 7 of the RTE Act.
Bagga added, “We are getting complaints daily that some private schools are conducting tests and EWS students are not able to appear for them. Measures have to be taken on this front soon otherwise the entire academic year of these students might get affected.”
Malkeet Singh, a contractual driver with no work since the lockdown was put in place, has two children studying in top private schools in west Delhi, under the EWS category. While his younger daughter is managing her studies with the help of her teachers and friends living nearby, his 11-year-old son has been unable to attend any classes, which are being held online.
“We do not have a laptop or a smartphone so he has not been able to attend any online classes. I got to know through other parents that his tests are slated to begin Monday. We don’t even have books and don’t know what to do,” he said.
His son’s school is among the 15 which were served showcause notices by the education department in the past one week after it was found out that EWS/DG students in these schools were not attending online classes regularly.
A senior DOE official, requesting anonymity, said, “The concerned schools were issued showcause notices as per the orders of the court, and the court is being appraised of their replies.”
In April as well, the DOE had issued a circular directing all private, unaided, recognised schools providing online learning material and students to ensure that the same facilities were extended to students from EWS/DG/Children With Special Needs category students too.
On behalf of some of the schools which received the showcause notice, advocate Kamal Gupta said, “While targeting private schools, the petition doesn’t talk about how 17 lakh government school students would access online classes in the absence of laptops or smartphones.”
SK Bhattacharya, president of the Action Committee of Unaided, Recognised, Private Schools, said: “We have not received any such complaints from EWS students. The government said that the centre will reimburse the amount for laptops, smartphones and recurring costs for internet connections. But some private schools are not regularly reimbursed for uniforms and books as well. They should be offered some amount in advance.”