Saturday, June 18, 2011

Maharashtra delay in notifying RTE rules

Maharashtra delay in notifying RTE rules
Hemali Chhapia & Mathang Seshagiri, TNN Jun 13, 2011, 06.13am IST

MUMBAI: Numberless schools will reopen in various parts of the country in a few days to find change in their midst. Impelled by law, their campuses would probably for the first time open doors to underprivileged children who otherwise would have never got an education. Schools in Maharashtra, however, will not rank among these institutions this year since it is one of those states yet to notify Right to Education (RTE) norms.

The Union human resource development ministry says that, if all states do their bit fast and clear RTE rules this year, about 15.87 lakh children from economically backward classes (EBC) would perhaps get free admission in private schools. There is, however , little chance of that happening. Until April 25 at least, a sizable number of states in the country were yet to notify RTE norms and Maharashtra was one of this errant majority.

The Right to Education mandates that private schools in the country reserve 25% of admissions for EBC children. In return, the schools would be paid a sum decided by the Centre and borne equally by the Centre and the state.

According to a note sent by the Union government to all states last week, Uttar Pradesh has the largest pool of underprivileged children—4 .11 lakh—to join private schools this year. For each of these more than 4 lakh children, the government has already fixed an expenditure of Rs 3,716 per annum that has to be paid to the schools. In Goa, the number of children is 744, though the annual expense on education is Rs 5,553 per child.

Maharashtra stands somewhere in the middle of the order, with 88,717 kids needing to be admitted and the outlay per child fixed at Rs 5,329.

Until April 25 at least, the three states had not approved RTE rules. It is not clear whether Goa and Uttar Pradesh implemented the norms thereafter, though it is known that Maharashtra did not. Therefore, there is little hope of Maharashtra getting any economically backward child admitted in a private school this year.

Some states clearly are not exactly excited about the idea. "But the larger objective of the provision to admit 25 per cent children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections from the neighbourhood in class I in private unaided institutions is in consonance of the egalitarian framework with the Constitution of India ," said the note sent by the Centre to the states.

On an average, most states spend anywhere between Rs 4,000 and Rs 6,000 a year on educating a child in a government school. That is close to what most unaided private schools will receive as reimbursement for every poor child they admit. Many institutions are expectedly not happy with this sum, so they either plan to establish a corpus to support the economically weak students or crosssubsidise by asking the rich children to pay a higher fee.

The financial burden will further increase for those schools that have benefited from the state—by getting subsidised land or aid— since the fee bill for them would be recalculated.

"An unaided school, which is already under obligation to provide free education to a specified number of children on account of its having received any land, building or equipment or other facilities, either free of cost or at a concessional rate, shall not be entitled for reimbursement to the extent of such obligation," says the Centre's note.

Many feel the government has not thought through the transition. It might pay for the underprivileged children's fees, but who will fund their books and uniforms. Also, how will the state bury the differences that surface when, for instance, expensive duffel bags get posited against a polythene bag?

"Inclusiveness is essential . There will be a lack of clarity initially. But let us learn by practise and not by prescription. Experiences that children will undergo vary from place to place. Schools will find their own equilibrium. We must allow that to set in," said R Govinda, vice chancellor of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration in New Delhi.

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