Vacant RTE seats to go to general category students?

State education department is working on a system where schools will have a free hand to convert unclaimed seats under the RTE quota into general category; parents, activists upset with decision

Schools that have expressed their displeasure at being forced to leave unclaimed seats under the Right to Education (RTE) quota vacant, may soon get a breather. The state education department is currently working on a new method to address the issue.

The state feels that leaving seats vacant in schools on account of fewer applications will not serve the purpose of providing education to all. File pic for representation
The state feels that leaving seats vacant in schools on account of fewer applications will not serve the purpose of providing education to all. File pic for representation

Under this method, after a certain period since the start of the admissions process, if seats under the RTE quota are still unclaimed, then schools will have a free hand to convert the seats into general category. Schools can keep these seats open for admissions. State education minister Vinod Tawde has confirmed this move.

“This clause was implemented under RTE to make sure that schools don’t play games and ignore giving admissions to children from the economically and socially backward sections of society.

But now that the RTE admissions are conducted online by the education department, there’s no chance of schools not giving admissions to students in need,” said Tawde. He added that leaving seats vacant in schools due to fewer applications will not serve the purpose of providing education to all.

Activists fight back
While the education department is yet to release a government resolution (GR) in this regard, Tawde added that discussions are almost done and this clause will soon be applicable. However, the decision has not gone down well with activists and parents who are still protesting against the education department’s lax attitude towards RTE admissions.

“This is ridiculous. They are giving more reasons for schools to not admit students under the RTE quota. If this is what they end up doing, then no child from the economically or socially backward sections of society will find seats in private schools,” said Sudhir Paranjape from the Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti (ASBS), an activist body.

He added that the May 2014 circular by the education department mentions the need for these seats to remain vacant so that schools don’t knowingly ignore applications of those in need. Over the last two years, the RTE admissions for Mumbai schools have been conducted through an online process and both times, the process has been marred by problems.

Last year, over 300 schools did not receive a single application through the online process and were unhappy about being forced to leave their seats vacant. “We have 15 seats that fall under the RTE quota and last year we got 12 applications only, so three were left vacant.

This year again five seats will go vacant. It’s a huge loss to the school, but we are following rules nonetheless,” said Kavita Sanghvi, principal of MET Rishikul Vidyalaya, Bandra (West). Activists were also unhappy about this decision since RTE admissions for the past two years have not yielded good results.

“Seats can be considered permanently vacant only once the admissions process for RTE seats are over, but for the past two years the state government has not managed to complete the process.

How are schools being given a free hand at this?” asked Paranjape. He added that with the education department not initiating action against defaulting schools, parents and activists have decided to go on a hunger strike on November 6.

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