Education and literacy lie at the heart any progressive society. The more the number of schools, the better educated a community will be. This is a no-brainer. However, as MiD DAY exposed in its March 15 issue, illegal schools are quite the norm in Mumbai. Twenty-nine schools in five suburbs were declared illegal by the state education department, and yet no action has been taken against them to either regularise the school by fining them or by debarring them from functioning.

While the Right to Education Act gives opportunities for poor children to get access to quality education, the reality is that the state government has turned a blind eye towards schools that do not adhere to the most basic of norms required to run a primary level educational institution.

What this results in is that both students and their parents are always on the tenterhooks regarding the status of a school. Secondly, it allows unscrupulous elements in the state education department to arm-twist these schools and the bribe economy comes into the picture. What is needed, therefore, are laws that prevent the funding and running of educational institutions. In fact, they are already in place, but more often than not, they are ignored. Sometimes, deliberately.

Perhaps the government should publish a list of illegal schools every year to warn parents from applying for admission. Since everybody is kept in the dark (MiD DAY acquired the list of illegal schools through an RTI application), it is to the school’s benefit and to the benefit of the babu sitting in the education department. It is up to the state to show political will in becoming more transparent on education. It is also up to parents to make sure that their children are admitted to schools that adhere to norms.