Schools concerned about implementation of Delhi high court order
According to the Right to Education Act, 25% of the seats at entry-level classes of private unaided schools are reserved for children under the EWS/DG category whose families earn less than ₹1 lakh annually.Updated: Sep 19, 2020, 02:21 IST
Following the Delhi high court’s order on Friday asking schools to provide gadgets and internet access to students from economically weaker section (EWS) and disadvantaged groups (DG) categories to assist in their online education during the Covid-19 crisis, private schools in the capital have raised concerns over the implementation of the order.
According to the Right to Education Act, 25% of the seats at entry-level classes of private unaided schools are reserved for children under the EWS/DG category whose families earn less than ₹1 lakh annually. These children are entitled to free textbooks, notebooks, stationery and uniforms, and state governments are supposed to reimburse schools for these expenses.However, schools have claimed that over the years, the delay in transfer of funds by the government has added to the expenses of parents or schools, who spend the money and wait for reimbursements.
Puneet Mittal, counsel for Delhi Public School, submitted in the high court that in the past decade, of the ₹30.36 crore spent for EWS students in the five DPS schools in the capital, only ₹2.92 crore had been reimbursed by the state government and the outstanding balance stands at ₹27.43 crore.
While the court on Friday directed private unaided schools to file their claims for reimbursement to the Delhi government within eight weeks from the date of supply of gadgets or equipment and stated that the said claim shall be processed and reimbursed to the schools within eight weeks from the date of their submission, schools are apprehensive of when they will be compensated for these expenses.
SK Bhattacharya, president of the Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools, said, “While the court has given a time frame [for the reimbursement], compliance and red-tapism is often an issue. Several private schools have not received funds for providing textbook, uniform and other items to EWS children for the past five years. How can we expect to receive reimbursement for laptops and other facilities now?”
Bhattacharya will also be a part of the three-member committee that the high court has directed to ensure uniformity and expedite the supply of gadgets/equipment to EWS/DG students, along with formulating standard operating procedure on the matter.
“We welcome the decision by the court to call for serious deliberation on the matter and take the views of private schools into cognisance. Investments on laptop and internet facilities will be expensive and difficult to facilitate during a pandemic, since schools are already facing financial issues due to fee restrictions,” he said.
Officials in the Delhi government said they have received the high court’s order and examining it. They refused to comment further on the matter.
“A pragmatic solution would be that the government should give money in advance to the schools to purchase the material and distribute among children so that they can continue with their online classes,” he added.
Om Prakash Gautam, chairman of Green Valley International Public School, agreed. “We haven’t received the reimbursements for books and uniforms provided by us to the EWS students for three years now. When the old reimbursements are not being fulfilled, how can we expect to receive new reimbursements for expensive devices like smartphones and laptops?”
While parents have welcomed the move, questions remain over the academic loss in the six months since the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed moving the teaching-learning processes online.
Malkeet Singh, a resident of Tilak Nagar, whose two children study in top private schools in west Delhi, said his children were still unable to appear for their ongoing tests. “Their academic year is under jeopardy as they couldn’t attend their classes or appear for the class tests for the past six months. I lost my job as a contractual driver and there was no possibility of buying a new smartphone to help with their classes,” Singh said.
“My son still hasn’t received his books from the school creating further problems in following his studies. While the order intends to help students, we don’t know how it will be implemented. Often, schools don’t even talk to us to resolve our queries and help our children,” he said.
Advocate Shikha Sharma, petitioner in the case and secretary at NGO Justice for All, said, “The judgement would help in combating the mass dropout of students along with assisting those who could not access a single class or missed examination due to lack of devices.”