Friday, April 19, 2013

No right to education in Marathi

Privately run Marathi medium schools in urban areas are threatened with extinction due to the RTE
Ajit Ranade
Posted On Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 08:59:21 AM

The number of Marathi medium schools is dwindling owing to poor response from kids

The right to free and compulsory education (RTE) came into effect on April 1, 2010. The enabling Act was passed by Parliament in August, 2009. This historic Act makes free education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 in the country. On the day that the right was brought into force, the Prime Minister gave a speech to the nation.

He reminded us that it was Gopal Krishna Gokhale who first demanded such a right almost hundred years ago. It has taken this long for India to join the league of more than 135 countries, where this fundamental right is conferred on every child. But what happens if this right is denied? Roughly 50 million children are out of schools.

Some are out due to economic circumstance, some are runaways, but most are not in school, because there is no functioning school nearby. So if you are denied a fundamental right, what recourse do you have?

This right becomes justifiable by March 2013. The government has given itself the first three years to become prepared to implement RTE. After this period you can go to court and seek justice. The estimated annual cost of “delivering” this right is about Rs 2 lakh crore annually.

This will be borne two thirds by the Central government and the remaining by the states. Private schools will have to compulsorily admit 25% kids from low-income families. These schools will be reimbursed for these 25% kids, based on a standard formula.

After March 2013, only recognized private schools will be allowed to operate. The recognition depends on parameters like teacher student ratio, class rooms, playground etc. Minorityrun private schools are exempted. But other private schools are worried that they will be denied recognition. RTE has many challenges, and several critics. But the juggernaut is rolling.

One remarkable and perhaps unforeseen consequence being felt in Maharashtra is the fate of Marathi medium schools. The RTE implies that the state government has to provide funds to recognized schools. The norms for recognition have become rather stringent. In most urban areas (i.e. within the limits of municipal corporations), land is expensive.

So qualifying for norms of playgrounds is difficult for private schools. It turns out that no new private Marathi medium schools have got recognition since 2005. The state announced that 2,372 new Marathi schools will be started, of which 2248 will be run by zilla parishads or municipal corporations.

That means that there will be very few new private Marathi schools. In the meantime there is a large backlog of unrecognized private Marathi medium schools. (The government schools obviously don’t need recognition). So by next year, kids in unrecognized schools will flee, and probably to non- Marathi schools.

Since RTE is not applicable to minority schools, this fate may not befall other Indian language schools in Maharahtra. The agitation for giving recognition for privately run Marathi medium schools is more than 2 years old, but has so far been unsuccessful.

It has tried mobilizing forces and parents in Nashik, Pune, Mumbai, etc. To add to this dismal fate of private Marathi schools, the poor also seem to prefer English to Marathi. Since RTE gives a 25% quota to the poor in privately run elite schools, all low-income applicants are flocking to English medium schools only. In Pune city all 3,582 admissions done under RTE quota were in English medium.

As such the number of Marathi medium schools (private or not) is dwindling in cities like Pune and Mumbai. In South Mumbai many such Marathi municipal schools have very thin attendance.

And privately run schools are under extinction threat. They are unloved both by the state and by the poor. Looks like RTE means the demise of right to a private sector Marathi medium education!

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History repeats itself


Ajit Ranade’s article ‘Murder at Maruti’ (PM, July 21) reminded me of the infamous 1981 Mumbai textile strike . Prior to this strike, there were 180 textile mills employing over 2.5 lakh workers in Mumbai.

This strike brought to fore the harsh reality —the workers can’t survive if the mill is shut. Within 2-3 months , the workers returned despite stiff opposition from union leader. Entrepreneurs used the opportunity to shift their mills to other cities or states and there was an exodus of textile industry to Gujarat. It is now history.

Gujarat is back to its old tricks. It has invited Maruti to open a new unit. What happened to textile sector post 1981 textile strike in Mumbai, can happen to automobile sector post 2012 in Haryana.

-   M K Padabidri

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