Thursday, January 23, 2014

Denied refund under RTE Act, schools forced to charge students

Denied refund under RTE Act, schools forced to charge students

Saradha Mohan Kumar, TNN Oct 26, 2013, 03.07AM IST

CHENNAI: The primary purpose of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) appears to be threatened in Tamil Nadu, as some schools say they would be forced to charge students admitted under the 25% free education quota. The reason: The government is yet to reimburse the tuition fee, uniform and book components, as prescribed by the legislation.
With little information from the government on the reimbursement, some schools had asked students admitted under the 'free seats' category during 2012-13 to pay the fees for the current academic year. According to the act, the government has to reimburse the expenditure incurred by the school for each child admitted.
P S Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Mylapore admitted around 10 RTE students in LKG last year. "We didn't get any information on the 2012-13 reimbursement, so we asked the students to pay for UKG this year," said principal S Bhooma. The school has admitted 16 students this year, but is waiting to get information on the refund. "The education department has collected details of the students and fee structure, but we have not received any news about the refund," she said.
The correspondent of a private matriculation school told TOI that officials of the education department gave vague answers when asked about reimbursements. "When no effort was made to give money by the end of previous academic year, we had to ask students to pay fees this year," the correspondent said.
Officials of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which is the RTE implementing agency in the state, says the delay was with the Centre releasing the funds to the state for reimbursement. "We've sent a proposal to the Centre seeking 25.13 crore for the 2013-14 reimbursement," said K Sasikala, SSA joint director in the state.
Earlier this month, higher education minister P Palaniappan said the Centre was yet to spell out the pattern of reimbursement. "If it is to be met out of SSA funds, the same would have to be included in the plan of 2013-14 and shared by the Centre and state in the ratio 65:35," he had said at a meeting in New Delhi. However, the Centre had cut the SSA grants by almost half this year, and there was no special allocation for RTE, said officials
On Friday, Pune Zilla Parishad introduced a form on its website where schools can fill up reimbursement details and claim 15,000 per student for 2013-14 against 10,000 during 2012-13. According to SSA's proposal, schools in Tamil Nadu will get a reimbursement of around 5,000 per student.
Some schools like Vidya Mandir have provided free education irrespective of the reimbursement. "Even if we don't get reimbursed, the school will continue to provide free education," said principal Bhavani Raghunandan.
Times view
It was with much difficulty that the state government got private schools to take in students under the 25% quota for poorer sections. Now, with the state delaying reimbursement, the schools will have another excuse to deny the rights of economically weaker students. The state may blame the Centre for delaying its payment component, but these are times when the state has to be proactive and make alternative arrangements till the central funds come. Expenditure on education, after all, is one of the most promising investments for a state which needs an enlightened and skilled next generation to drive its dreams and achieve its goals.

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