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EWS students at private schools still waiting for free books, uniforms

Under the RTE Act, 2009, 25 % of seats in entry-level classes — nursery, KG and first standard — are to be reserved for children whose parents earn less than Rs 1 lakh per annum.

delhi Updated: Oct 20, 2018 07:22 IST
Fareeha Iftikhar
Fareeha Iftikhar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
private schools,free books,free uniforms
Seven months into the academic session, hundreds of economically disadvantaged parents in the national capital have complained that their wards had not been provided with free books, stationery and uniforms by many private schools. (Representative Image/HT File Photo)

Seven months into the academic session, hundreds of economically disadvantaged parents in the national capital have complained that their wards had not been provided with free books, stationery and uniforms by many private schools, in violation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009.

Take the case of a 40-year-old single mother, who earns no more than Rs 4,000 a month. She said her excitement at her daughter getting enrolled in a private school in east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar was short-lived as she was forced to then spend money on her books, uniform and stationery. “My daughter was admitted to Anglo Indian Public School in Class 1, under the economically weaker section (EWS) category, this year. We were told we would get everything for free, as per the RTE (Act). But so far, nothing has been provided. I have spent nearly Rs 8,000 on her books, stationery, and uniform,” the woman said, requesting anonymity. She said she had the bills for items worth Rs 7,900.

The woman said she was concerned about paying for her daughter’s winter uniform, which would cost at least Rs 3,000.

Officials at Anglo Indian Public School said they had been unable to provide free uniforms and stationery items because they had not yet received any funds from the government. Chander Singh, a spokesperson for the school, said: “Last year too, we received only Rs 1,125 per student. How can this amount cover books, uniform and stationery items and examination fees?”

Under the RTE Act, 2009, 25 % of seats in entry-level classes — nursery, KG and first standard — are to be reserved for children whose parents earn less than Rs 1 lakh per annum. 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.

At present, the Delhi government is supposed to reimburse Rs 1,100 per student for uniforms and another Rs 2,200 for books, stationery, tuition and exam fees.

HT is in possession of at least 100 complaints, written by families who claim they have been deprived of the free study material and uniforms by private schools.

“We have received hundreds of complaints from parents whose children are not provided anything by private schools. We had forwarded all the complaints to the education minister’s office but to no avail,” Ekramul Haque of Mission Taleem, an organisation working for EWS children in Delhi, said.

Debate over funds

In 2013, a group of private schools had moved the Delhi high court claiming that the amount paid by the state government per child was too low to meet all expenses. The court, in 2014, directed private schools to provide books, stationery items and uniforms to students under the EWS/DG categories, and said it was the responsibility of both the government and the schools to ensure free education to these students. The matter is still subjudice. Even as the Delhi high court issued as many as 46 reminders to private schools between April 2014 and September 2018 to provide the required materials, parents claim they have still not received anything.

Most of the private schools this correspondent contacted declined to comment, saying the matter was subjudice.

Kamal Gupta, counsellor, Committee of Unaided Recognised Private Schools in Delhi, a body representing 450 private schools said half the schools have not received any funds from the government.

Sanjay Goel, director of the Delhi government’s education department — Directorate of Education (DoE) — said it already provided funds to the private schools and was requesting the government for “additional funds” to meet the revised estimates. The government, this year, increased the reimbursement amount by Rs 600.

“Whatever demand is pending for this year will be fully met by end-November. However, the delayed release of funds cannot be the reason for private schools not giving books and uniforms to the students,” he said. Goel said the DoE had also issued multiple notices to many schools and warned they would de-recognise them if they did not provide books and uniforms.

Parents bear costs

Another parent, requesting anonymity, said two of his children were not given uniforms by a private school in north Delhi. “My children got admission in nursery and Class 1 under the EWS category this year. The school had given them used books but not uniforms and stationery. I had to buy those myself,” said the man, who works in a grocery shop and earns Rs 5,000 a month.

Khagesh Jha, an advocate representing families in Delhi high court, said, “There is no provision under which the parents can claim reimbursements once they spend the money on these things. They can only be issued a fresh set of uniforms or books once the schools get the money.”

Despite attempts, education minister Manish Sisodia did not respond to requests for a comment.

First Published: Oct 20, 2018 07:22 IST