Only 11 of 4,000+ schools in Mumbai follow all RTE norms

According to a state government report, these are the only schools which satisfy all 10 criteria laid down by the Right to Education guidelines; most institutes lack a headmaster, or facilities like playgrounds and ramps for disabled students

Five years since the Right to Education (RTE) Act was first introduced in Maharashtra in April 2010, schools in the city — and also across Maharashtra — are still finding it tough to comply with the guidelines specified in the Act. According to a report of the state education department, for 2014-15, only 11 schools in the city (including BMC schools) are currently following all 10 criteria laid down by the RTE Act. Neighbour Thane fares better, with 359 schools falling in this category.

Also read: 10,000 RTE seats in schools still lie vacant

RTE Act, Mumbai schools
Representational picture

Officials stated that one of the major problems is lack of headmasters and availability of school playgrounds in Mumbai, which are keeping them from being 100 per cent compliant with RTE guidelines. In Mumbai, 1,224 of the 4,060 schools do not have a headmaster. “Lack of headmasters is a big problem and the state education department is already working on it. But most city schools lose out on one or two indicators, either because of lack of playgrounds or ramps for disabled students. Playgrounds are a big issue in a congested city like Mumbai,” said P R Pawar, deputy director (system analytics), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which made the report available to mid-day.

SSA is the agency that compiles the data state education officials collect during the year. The report takes into account schools associated with the Maharashtra state board.

Ahmednagar district was seen to have the highest number of schools complying with all ten norms: 1,799.

Making the problem worse for schools is the norm laid down by the state education department that schools which don’t follow all rules of the RTE will not be given the reimbursement for giving 25 per cent of their seats in entry-level class free to students from economically and socially backward classes of the society. “There’s still confusion about entry-level admissions; as per the central government, it is Std I, but for the state government, entry level is kindergarten classes. So we are told to give free admissions, but no reimbursement is given,” said S C Kedia, president of the Unaided Schools’ Forum.

Making structural changes to school buildings is also very difficult for old schools. “The RTE mandates playgrounds, which most schools in Mumbai don’t have. Similarly, many schools have lifts, so there is no need for ramps. But the RTE Act is insistent on ramps, so we are helpless,” said the principal of a school in Sion. Schools have also written to the education department about these problems, but to no avail.

While the city paints a sad picture in terms of following all ten important RTE indicators, senior officials chose to highlight how Mumbai is still doing better than other districts. “Mumbai and Sindhudurg are the only two districts that have all schools complying by seven or more RTE indicators. Some districts like Beed have 95 schools that are not following almost nine out of ten indicators,” added Pawar.

Also read: South Mumbai school reinstates expelled RTE students

He stated that local municipal officers have already been requested to send a stern notice to schools to comply with rules and also levy heavy fines, if need be. Recently, in Mumbai, the BMC education department sent out notices to 200 schools for not following RTE indicators. Officials stated that those flouting rules year after year will not only stand to lose their recognition, but will also be slapped with a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.

The ten RTE indicators

>> Building
>> Office-cum-headmaster’s room
>> One classroom for every teacher
>> Ramps for disabled students
>> Separate toilets for boys
>> Separate toilet for girls
>> Drinking water facility
>> Kitchen shed (in state and aided schools)
>> Boundary wall
>> Playground

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