The Education Department had declared 29 schools in the western suburbs illegal last year, issuing instructions to parents to steer clear of them while seeking admissions for their children. MiD DAY, however, returned to some of these schools recently to find them running smoothly and conducting admissions. The education department has not fined them a single penny.
In their defence, the schools claim that the files they submitted to ask for recognition are languishing with the education department. MiD DAY had reported that the government was not extracting fines from the 29 schools it had declared illegal last year in the city’s western zone. The schools are liable to pay Rs 1 lakh as fine, and an additional Rs 10,000 for each day that they remained open after being blacklisted (‘Illegal schools flourish, as govt turns a blind eye, March 15, 2003’). Till date, not a rupee of these fines have been extracted.
The schools, located in Malad, Jogeshwari, Andheri and Goregaon were declared illegal last year for failing to comply with the rules laid down by the Right to Education Act. The Act lays down that schools must be sufficiently spacious, and have amenities like toilets for girls and boys, proper drinking water, and playgrounds. Failing to fulfill one or more of these criteria, the schools failed to obtain no objection certificates.
But the stamp of illegality has changed almost nothing for many of these schools. Of the 29 schools, three schools in Malad Sir JR High School, AM School and Utkarsha high school are on as usual. At Utkarsh Marathi School, the teacher present in school claimed that Marathi medium section is functioning from nursery to Std X, as is the English medium section from nursery to Std IV. However, Firoz Shaikh, principal of Utkarsh High School said, “Our Marathi medium section is recognised. In the English medium section, I am only running the nursery section, as my proposal for recognition up to Std IV is pending.”
Avdesh Singh, principal of Sir JR School, said, “It is difficult to follow the RTE. The rules are so difficult to follow that in the process poor kids will be denied education. Our proposal for recognition for Stds VIII to X is still pending. We are going to protest against the government for implementing such rules. We are soon meeting the chief minister over the same issue.” Rafiq Siddiqui, principal of Holy Mother English School, said, “I run English medium school from nursery to Std X. It was established in 2006 and I submitted my file for recognition in 2008. But it is still pending review.
It hurt students and parents to read in newspapers that our school is illegal. The authorities should use the word unauthorised, and not illegal. We are helping poor students by giving them education and a right direction. Then why doesn’t the government give us the permission to run the school? Last time when we met the education minister he said that the school would have to shut if it did not follow RTE rules. We were shocked to learn that the minister does not want to impart education to poor kids in slums.” An official from western zone of the education department confirmed that no fines have been collected from the illegal schools yet.