Saturday, January 25, 2014

RTE promise of 25% reservation falls flat in Pune zone

Poor response, say schools; pity, say education officials

Only 20% of the 25% seats reserved for economically weaker sections have been filled so far. Besides rants against schools, govt, parents point to PMC’s semi-English plan
Ketaki Latkar
Posted On Tuesday, May 07, 2013 at 09:11:27 AM

With the deadline for completing admissions under the 25 per cent reservation for underprivileged students specified in the Right To Education (RTE) Act a few weeks away, efforts by the administration and schools to achieve this target appears headed for failure.

Of the 19,993 seats available, only 4,012 seats or 20 per cent of the target has been achieved. While schools are blaming unresponsive parents and lack of documentation, parents are blaming schools for not creating enough awareness about the quota.

Manoj Bidkar
Shikshan Hakka Manch on protest outside Central Building on Monday

The education department, on its part, is offering a sympathetic shoulder. Given the poor response to the RTE quota, the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) claim of overwhelming response to its plan to convert some of its schools to semi-English medium ones is beginning to ring true.

Sitting on protest at the government’s lethargy in successfully implementing the RTE reservation on Monday morning outside the Central Building in Camp, which houses the district education department, Shikshan Hakka Manch president Matin Mujawar and his associates laid the blame squarely on the schools, and on social differences to an extent.

Claiming to have over 27,000 enrolled activists, Mujawar’s organisation is a forum of parents of school children, formed in February 2011 to protest unreasonable fee hikes by Crescent and Rosary High Schools in 2010.

Since then, they have extended their protests to cover “arbitrary policies of school committees” and “lackadaisical government attitude”, Mujawar said.

“The reasons for the failure to implement the 25 per cent quota are many. Firstly, that such an option exists is not communicated to the target audience.

One cannot expect people from the slums to log on to websites for detail, nor are they literate enough to read circulars and banners put up in schools,” he pointed out.

Mujawar added that even if schools decide to go that extra mile and promote this quota in slums near them, parents there are apprehensive of sending their wards to schools predominantly filled with students from the upper economic strata. “They fear accommodation and adjustment challenges.

The impact of PMC’s move to create semi-English medium municipal schools cannot be denied. However, the main problem lies with poor administration and monitoring by the education department,” he said.

Suman Shinde, deputy director of education with the State government, said, “It is a pity that the response has been dull.

However, admissions have been extended till end-June and I have already appealed to schools across Pune zone to energetically promote the RTE reservation.

I want to urge them to approach the slums in the school’s vicinity and encourage parents to get their wards admitted under this quota.” Shinde also blamed the intricacies of verification of financial documents.

“It gets difficult for the weaker sections to furnish documents that prove they earn below Rs one lakh, which is a prerequisite to qualify for the quota. It makes sense, but it makes things more difficult,”she added.

Pradip Dhumal, chairperson, PMC Education Board explained, “All the 319 PMC-run schools have had a facelift with the semi-English move. Certainly, it must have had an impact on the RTE reservation mandate.

In PMC schools, education is free for all students and the chances of experiencing disparity between economic classes are far less. Naturally, people from the economically weaker sections would prefer coming to us, rather than experience identity crises at the more affluent private schools.”

A district education department official added, “PMC’s move has nothing to do with the implementation of the RTE mandate. The standard and quality of education offered in private schools can by no means be compared to that at municipal schools.

Any sane parent would prefer the private and contemporary social and education setting that private schools offer.”

Shilpa Solanki, principal, The Orchid School, said, “We can accommodate 105 students at the nursery level, of which we have reserved 26 seats under RTE. There hasn’t been a single confirmed admission till date. We have received a few applications which are being scrutinized for compliance with RTE criteria.”

“The response has been really poor. Of  the 52 seats under the quota, only four are taken. The few parents who enquried have not reverted so far. Also, another challenge is to check their documents, verify whether they really fall under the weaker sections category,” Neena Rai, principal, Dr Kalmadi Shamrao Pre-Primary school, added.

Kamini Zaveri, principal, DES English-medium Pre-Primary school, said, “Out of 37 reserved seats, 25 have been taken. In my opinion, the response is fairly decent. Again, this is the first year of implementation, so teething troubles are inevitable.”

“We went the extra mile to achieve the the 25 per cent quota target. We not only put up circulars and banners in nearby areas, but also went to slums to encourage them to avail of the quota,” Prof Nandakumar Kakirde, director and honorary secretary, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Pune Kendra said.

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan also runs two pre-primary schools, Chabbria Nursery in Shivajinagar and Paranjape Nursery in Kothrud, where the quotas of 37 and 50 seats respectively have already been filled.

►   Parents from economically weaker sections would prefer coming to us, rather than experience identity crises at the more affluent private schools

- Pradip Dhumal, Chairperson, PMC EDN Board

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