Double whammy: After Internet access, school books elude poor students
The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has summoned as many 45 private schools after receiving several such complaints within the last one week.Updated: Sep 21, 2020, 09:25 IST
Six months into the current academic session, many economically disadvantaged parents in the national capital have complained that their wards have not been provided with the promised free textbooks and stationery by private schools, in violation of caveats of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has summoned as many 45 private schools after receiving several such complaints within the last one week.
The delay in the distribution of books has added to the woes of students from Economically Weaker Section (EWS) families, who are already struggling to access virtual education at a time when schools have been shut in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 42-year-old mother of a Class 8 student in Victor Public School in north-east Delhi’s Maujpur said that she and her husband have been out of work since March due to the Covid-enforced lockdown. “Both of us were working in a garment manufacturing factory. We lost our jobs during the lockdown in March. We are still looking for employment. Our daughter could not attend online classes between April and June because even though we have a smartphone at home, we could not afford the Internet package. Now my sister has started recharging my phone with a monthly Internet package, just to help my daughter. But she is having a hard time without books,” the mother, who wished not to be named, said.
The mother, who is a resident of Vijay Park said that she has been visiting the school since April for the textbooks. “The school turns me away every time and asks me to contact them later. I would have bought her the books if I was not out of work,” she said.
School in-charge Shrawan Kumar said the delay took place due to the prevailing situation. “The school is also going through a financial crisis, since only 10-15% of the parents have paid the fees for this academic session. We are trying to get books and distribute them among students as soon as possible,” he said.
Under the RTE Act, 2009, 25% of the seats in entry-level classes — nursery, KG and Class 1 are reserved for EWS students. The Delhi RTE rules specify that students enrolled under the EWS/DG (disadvantaged group) categories in private schools are entitled to free textbooks, writing material and uniforms, for which the government reimburses a fixed amount.
Ranjana Prasad, a member of DCPCR, said that the commission has been receiving similar complaints against private schools on a daily basis since April. “We have summoned around 45 private schools within the last one week. A majority of them have agreed to provide textbooks to students at the earliest. The schools cannot deny providing books to the EWS students,” she said.
The father of a Class 6 student enrolled in Cambridge Foundation School in Rajouri Garden, under the EWS category, said that his child has not received books from the school yet. The father, a resident of Tilak Nagar, who was working as a driver in a private firm before losing his job in March, said his son could not appear in recently concluded half-yearly exams due to the unavailability of textbooks.
“He has started taking online classes now after a gap of almost four months using a second-hand smartphone. But he still doesn’t have books, and that’s why he is having a hard time understanding anything. We have been contacting the class teacher, but there is no response. He had missed last term exams as well due to the unavailability of a device. And now that I have managed to get a second-hand smartphone for him, he does not have books to prepare for another exam,” he said, requesting anonymity.
School principal Anita Puri did not respond to calls,texts and emails sent by HT for a comment.
Deepak Singh, an autorickshaw driver and father of a Class 7 student at a private school in south Delhi, said, “The school has given us textbooks only for Hindi and English. We are still waiting for more books and stationery.”
Ekramul Haque of Mission Taleem, an organisation working for EWS children in Delhi, said, “We have received hundreds of complaints from parents in this regard. We have forwarded the complaints to the education department as well. A majority of these students are either not attending virtual classes or have very little access to them. At least they should have books to study at home.”
A senior official in Delhi government’s education department said that they have also been receiving such complaints from EWS parents. “The DoE is looking into the complaints. We have already sent communications to several schools following which they have distributed books among students,” the official said.