Tuesday, April 9, 2013

RTE rule book goes for a toss

RTE rule book goes for a toss

Abhishek Choudhari, TNN Jul 7, 2012, 02.37AM IST

NAGPUR: The Right To Education (RTE) Act rule book seems to have gone for a toss as local education officials zealously try to fill the 25 per cent free quota seats, especially in CBSE schools. In a meeting held on Friday with CBSE principals, education officers declared that admissions will remain open till September 30 and that the distance restrictions for neighbourhood schools be 'overlooked'.
Lalit Ramteke, deputy education officer (primary), who addressed the principals, said, "If seats under the 25 per cent free quota are vacant then admissions cannot be closed, hence we have asked the schools to keep the process open till September 30." As per the information available with education officials, 158 admissions (out of 252 applications) have been done at CBSE schools. There are an estimated 1,200 seats available under the 25 per cent quota at CBSE schools.

However, CBSE schools cry foul saying the education department has been systematically shifting the goalpost in absolute contravention of an agreed plan. Principal of a popular CBSE school, said, "In mid-June we had met with the local education department and agreed to the Common Plan (CP). The agreement was to reopen admissions for 25 per cent free seats and the process was to be completed by July 5. It was an administrative nightmare for the top schools but still we (CBSE schools) achieved it, but now they ask us to keep it going till September."
Director of another school, said, "CBSE schools had followed the process in good faith because we understand that it is the law now. Only Nagpur schools have stepped forward and agreed to implement the RTE with immediate effect regardless of the difficulties, and the reward we get for playing a fair game is a complete change of rules midway."
The other change of rule pertains to the neighbourhood school policy which RTE pursues. The state government circular says that an applicant's residence needs to be within 1km of the school, and in case there are no applicants then the school can seek applications from extended neighbourhood. A school principal present in the meeting, said, "Though the circular does not define 'extended neighbourhood' we were told by deputy director, Mahesh Karajgaonkar, last month that it means 3km. On Friday, we were informed by Ramteke that we must accept applications even if the residence is 5km away. We all feel cheated by education officials who painted a different picture last month and now we are being told something very different."
Also the 'vacant seats' which officials mention are really the ones which schools were forced to create to meet RTE provisions.
Dy Education officer, Ramteke, said, "Most CBSE schools ignored our earlier calls for meetings and did not go through the details on RTE which is available in the public domain. They had completed admissions in their traditional manner but now RTE is a law and it needs to be followed. I agree that the state government resolution came late but does it mean that we ignore the law? What we are doing is simply following the law and I do not understand how you can complain against it."
(with inputs from Aman Bordia)

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