Saturday, March 23, 2013

RTE dreams dashed, kids back to the grind

RTE dreams dashed, kids back to the grind

Garima Prasher, TNN Mar 21, 2013, 04.37AM IST

BANGALORE: It's 7.45am and Simon rushes to accompany his mother Sunitha Sudhakar to work. Sunitha works as a domestic help and as she washes utensils, her six-year-old son neatly places them on the rack. "If only he had got admission in school," she rues. The Right to Education Act was the only window of hope for the likes of Sunitha who dreamt of a better future for their children. But Simon cannot study as the school where his mother applied, refused to admit him.
Sunitha lives in a slum tenement near RT Nagar. "I filled in the form and went to give it at Indian Public School, RT Nagar. But they sent us back, saying they will take kids under RTE only if we pay them the tuition fee or if the government reimburses the amount," she says.

There are many like Simon whose RTE dreams have coming crashing down. Take Sandhya A who will now accompany her parents to a construction site. She too was denied admission in the same school, no reason given. "I thought my daughter had a chance when I got to know about RTE. But I was mistaken. With no help around, I am planning to take her along with me. She will be an extra hand at work," says a teary Parvathi Amarnath, mother and construction worker. Simon, Sandhya and hundreds of RTE castaways are now resigned to a life of drudery, their school dreams buried.
"The RT Nagar school was supposed to give 10 seats under RTE. Despite repeated notices, the school has refused. We have prepared a report and submitted it to the DDPI office," said Ramesh, BEO, North-3.
Some officials allege that schools are refusing to mend their ways as the education department has been lenient with them. "When it comes to taking action against erring schools, our hands are tied. Also, schools are aware they won't be derecognized so easily," said an official on condition of anonymity.
SR Umashankar, commissioner, Department of Public Instruction (DPI), confirmed complaints about many such schools declining to take in children under RTE. "We have received complaints but cannot act on the spur. We have issued notices to such schools and will book cases against them. These schools have always enjoyed the freedom and with RTE in place, they are finding it difficult. This in no way should indicate that we are ruling out derecognition.
If needed, schools will be derecognized and the children studying there will be accommodated elsewhere," said Umashankar.
School writes to PM
Indian Public School, the errant school in question, has written to the prime minister seeking to exclude private unaided educational institutions from the purview of RTE, saying it will affect the seating capacity of classroom as the existing infrastructural set-up can't take more than the present capacity. It also says the cost of 25% quota is a financial burden on it.
No takers for government schools
While many private schools may not be adhering to RTE norms, government schools find no takers. Parents say they prefer to take their kids to work rather than put them in a government school. "We don't want a seat in a government school. I have seen my neighbours' kids who have dropped out of government schools after a year or so. I would rather take my daughter to work," said Manjula Srinivas, a parent.
Times View
There can be nothing harsher than opening a window of opportunity and shutting it suddenly, especially when the intended benefactors are children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The skewed implementation of an otherwise laudable Right to Education Act has trampled upon the dreams of hundreds of children yearning for a school education, simply because educational institutions and the government are on a collision course over provisions in the Act. It's an irony too that government schools are shunned while private schools shut their doors. This imbalance needs to be corrected by imparting quality education,infrastructure and faculty in existing government schools.

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