Parents who have been heaving a sigh of relief at having admitted their toddlers to KG sections in schools would do well to steel themselves for the trauma of yet another school hunt a few years down the line, when it’s time to step into primary section. Schools across the city have been making parents sign a form during KG admissions in which they state that they cannot guarantee their child promotion from Senior KG to Std I.
At the crux of this bewildering condition lies the RTE Act and its provision which makes it mandatory for partially or fully aided schools to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for children from the economically weaker sections (EWS) of society.
Schools claim that since the government only reimburses them for students admitted under this quota upwards from StdI, they cannot allow admissions under this quota at the KG level, as they would have to pay for their education from their own coffers.
Since they start receiving aids for reserved students from Std I, they made this quota available only from this level. This means that they must make 25 per cent of their desks available for EWS students in Std I — this comes at the cost of 25 per cent existing students, who may get unceremoniously kicked out of their schools because the school has to accommodate new students under its RTE quota.
Aisha Sheikh (name changed), parent of a three-year-old, said, “I am seeking admission for my child for KG. While taking a form from Rainbow Kindergarten at Agripada, the authorities first asked me to read the instructions behind the form that states, ‘Parents please note that this admission is only valid for junior and senior KG.
The management gives you no guarantee of obtaining admission for your children in any class of Std I.’ Now that is very shocking. Does this indicate that we may again have to arrange donations for admission to Std I and take the pains of searching for another school? This is harassment for parents.”
The same problem occurs in partially aided schools, in which only those classes upward from Std V receive aid. Since the schools have to accommodate poor students from Std V, they have to show 25 per cent of their existing Std IV students the door, even if they perform well.
Other parents echoed Sheikh’s outrage, saying, “My youngest child needs admission into kindergarten. Now these new rules will surely make us bankrupt and cause us the trauma of searching for new schools again and again for our children. This is a new way of extorting money from parents. If you have a good sum to pay, then your child may get promoted. If not, search for a new school.”
Yet another parent of a Std IV student said, “ Our school called a parent meeting last week. The school authorities claim that they have to fill 25 per cent quota reserved for backward children and so will hold a lucky draw for all students eligible for promotion to Std V. They have told us that the government wants them to fill 25 per cent quota in Std V, so they may not promote all students to Std V. Children who are not selected via lottery have to be admitted to a new school. The parents are anxious and are deciding to approach the education department.”
Amol Dhamdhere, secretary of Indian Education Society that has 64 schools under it, said, “The government need to go step by step and sort out this confusion over the RTE Act. The entry level of schools is Junior KG, but the government is only paying from Std I. Hence the schools cannot guarantee that a child will go up to Std I as they may have to fill 25 per cent quota in Std I.”
Nazma Kazi, principal of Anjuman-I-Islam Girls’ High School and Jr College of Arts & Science, said, “Teachers whose children are still studying in schools are worried. Some of the schools have been telling them that they cannot guarantee the admission of their children in Std V and Std I. The government needs to hold an interactive session where they clear the doubts of school authorities and parents. There needs to be some platform where the problems can be sorted out, as both parents and schools are in a tight spot.”
The Archdiocesan Board of Education has several schools under it that partially receive aids in certain sections. Fr Gregory Lobo, secretary of Archdiocesan Board Education, said, “This is happening because of the RTE Act. The point of entry for a six-year-old child is Std I as per the RTE Act. If the government is not going to pay us from kindergarten for the students who are admitted from weaker sections, then how can we teach them? We will not give parents any assurance of increasing divisions to accommodate their children now. We will think.”
Father Francis, state board member, said, “Instead of removing students in Std I or Std V, the school should ask for an increase in divisions. Removing children would itself be a violation of the RTE Act.”
Basanti Roy, former secretary of the State Board (Mumbai division) and director of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, said, “The norms need to be clarified because the people are interpreting them in various ways. Schools are adopting interpretations that are convenient to them.
The schools can take help of NGOs and trusts for students from economically weaker sections who are admitted at the KG level, so that the question of admitting them in Std I and removing existing students to accommodate new students does not arise. There can be misuse of the RTE Act. The government needs to give more detailed guidelines to schools.”
Deputy Director for school education, NB Chauhan, said, “If the entry level of the school is Std I then the 25 per cent quota is to be filled from Std I. If the entry level of the school is KG then the 25 per cent quota should be filled from that level. It is wrong if the schools aren’t reserving 25 per cent of their KG seats in spite of having that section. It is also wrong if the child is removed at Std I or Std V.
However, he maintained that no funds would be provided forstudents from EWS that schools admit at the KG level. He said, “The government is going to pay schools a reimbursement for a child admitted under economically weaker sections, but when that child comes in Std I and not at kindergarten level. Action and enquiry can be initiated if a child is removed from school or any school does no fill 25per cent in kindergarten if they have that section.”