It has been four months since admissions under the Right to Education (RTE) quota were put on the back burner, leaving the fate of over 1,400 children hanging in the balance. With the number of underprivileged students missing out on schooling opportunities escalating with each passing year, it looks like the RTE Act has failed to deliver.
According to the figures made public by the BMC in the first week of April, seats were allotted to 2,593 of the 4,000 students who applied during the first round of admission under the RTE. Their application forms were divided between 190 pre-primary schools and 255 primary schools (across various boards).
The remaining 1,407 applicants were assured seats in the second round. But with no word from the education department for commencing the second round of admissions till date, several parents have secured admissions for their children in either civic schools or in general quota.
The lacunae persists despite education department warning schools of charging them with contempt of court if they refused admissions to children under the RTE quota and conclude the process by September 24.
Left in the lurch
At a time when kids his age are busy attending school, four-year-old Maruf Sirsodia spends his time at home — thinking when will he go to school. “My husband is a contract labourer and we can’t afford to pay the fee, which is why we were hoping to get our son admitted to a school under the free quota.
My neighbours could afford to pay, so they didn’t wait for the second round of admissions and got their children admitted to nearby schools. My son just sits at home,” said Maruf’s mother Shamim Bano.
Residents of Andheri, the Sirsodias were some of many parents who were assured admission during the second round by the education department. But they have not received any confirmation till date. Similarly, three-and-half year-old Faizan Sheikh keeps questioning his parents about going to school so that he can learn to read and write.
“We were promised admission for Faizan, for which we ran from pillar to post in the past three months. However, nothing has happened till date. I have no option but to keep him at home and once again try next year under the RTE quota,” said Faizan’s mother Shahina, a housewife.
Like the Sirsodias, she too received an SMS in April stating that her son’s form was rejected for the first round of admission and till date is clueless why the government has not done anything about it other than giving hollow assurances.
The other side
Commenting on the issue, Nand Kumar, principal secretary of education (state), said, “The HC has clearly stated that admissions of those students, who were rejected by schools, must be concluded at the earliest.
Accordingly, we have given schools time till September 24 to finish this process, or else we will issue contempt of court notices against them.”
However, when questioned, Kumar refused to comment or give a tentative dateline for fresh admissions. Instead, he said the dept’s priority was to ensure seats for children who had made it through the first round.