For the poor, RTE trips on red tape

Private schools are making admissions for EWS students too much of a hassle

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | February 6, 2012


Samim, with Zishan
Samim, with Zishan

Samim Khan wants to send her youngest son, 5-year-old Zishan, to a private school. She has five children and four of them have studied at a government school in Kalyanpuri in East Delhi.

Her husband is a daily-wage labourer and earns around Rs 5,000 a month.

She feels the private schools have better opportunities for children. “There is a difference in quality of education and also, there are better opportunities for children in private schools. My eldest son left his education in between because he was caught up with wrong company,” she says.

Under the EWS (economically weaker section) quota of the right to education (RTE) Act, private school have to reserve 25 per cent of their total seats in class 1 for children families with an annual income less than Rs 1 lakh.

But for many parents like Samim who want to give their child an education that they, otherwise, could never have even dreamt of, the right does not come easy.

When she took Zishan to the Bal Bhawan Public School in Mayur Vihar, the school authorities asked for a medical certificate from a government hospital. The common application form for admission under RTE for EWS, issued by the Delhi government says that the medical certificate is only necessary in cases where the child has special needs or disabilities.

Samim, keen not to lose the opportunity, arranged the money with great difficulty to obtain a certificate.

“I had to pay Rs 200 to get the medical certificate. The school refused to accept the form otherwise,” she says. The school, however, did not ask for the medical certificate from children seeking admission under the general category, she adds.

Delhi is the first state to implement the EWS quota, much before the RTE wa implemented. Almost 300 schools which had got land at subsidised rates from the state government were required to reserve 20 percent of their seats for students from poor families. With RTE, all private schools, even the unaided ones, are required to admit children from the EWS category.

The implementation of the act guaranteeing their right, however, has been pathcy. Most parents have faced problems at almost each step of admission.

Most of the schools are reluctant to admit EWS candidates and they leave no opportunity to make the process difficult for their parents, says Saurabh Sharma from Josh, a NGO working to secure the right.

“The biggest challenge in front of parents is getting a domicile certificate which is to be submitted along with the birth and income certificate signed by a gazetted officer. The officers are not available and MBBS doctors in the government hospital either ask for money or simply refuse to sign the certificate,” he adds.

jasEWS1

Rani Singh can well empathise with Samim. Getting her two children admitted proved both humiliating and harrowing. She had sought their admission at many schools, but only two were willing.

“I went to the MBBS doctors in Lal Bahadur Shsastri Hospital but they refused to sign the domicile certificate. We got it signed from the Nigam Parshad and schools did not accept it,” she says.

"Only through this quota can my children get an education at one these English-medium schools," she adds.

jasEWS2

Even those who have been lived in Delhi for many years now and are registered voters in the national capital were asked for the identity card and domicile certificate.

“We have been living here for so long. I have a voter id card with a Delhi address. But they refuse to accept that as my identity and are asking for the domicile certificate instead,” says Umesh who is trying for admission of his four-year-old daughter. He feels the private school authorities do not want EWS children in their schools.

Private schools from the very beginning have rejected the idea of reserving 25 per cent seats for EWS. It is treated as an obligation and most of them have denied admissions on one or the other pretext.  Meanwhile, a judgement is awaited from the supreme court in a case in which private schools have challenged the RTE's EWS provision (society of unaided private schools of Rajasthan Vs union of India).

Ashok Agarwal, a high court lawyer and civil rights activist, has filed many petitions in the Delhi high court seeking government action against private schools who are flouting the rule.

“Schools are violating the law but there has been no action against them. Everday, we receive complaints from parents facing one or the other problem. Though the court’s order of asking schools to admit children on the distance criterion will ensure that no seat is left vacant but government should be strict against schools making fun of the education law.”

The private schools, however, feel vote bank politics is behind what they consider an unfair imposition on them.

R C Jain, the president of the Delhi state public schools management association which claims to represent around 1,500 recognised schools in the capital, is against the quota.

“The quota is not just for children from economically weaker section. It is also for children from SC/ST/OBC and for them there is no income limit. So, those who should be benefited are actually deprived of it.  Anybody can go to a SDM office and get a certificate and we cannot even challenge it.”

"Has the government thought of opening more schools for children who will left out because of the 25 percent reservation?" asks Jain.

“The EWS children can go to government schools. These schools are in the worst condition. They have shortage of teachers and there is no proper infrastructure. The government should first try to improve its own schools,” he says, adding that government will not be successful in implementing the quota.

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