Pune: If students under Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 face discrimination, another evident anomaly in the implementation of the act is that awareness about RTE in rural areas is tremendously low compared with urban areas.
Schools in urban areas receive applications from students under the Economically Weaker Classes (EWC). The number of students falling under EWC in rural areas is almost double that in urban areas. However, due to lack of awareness a large number of seats in rural areas go vacant.
Experts pointed out that there are 200 schools in rural Pune that have not received a single application under RTE in the past two years. Also, out of 1.5 lakh seats under RTE in the state, 50 per cent go vacant every year.
Inefficiency of local governing bodies
RTE activist Mukund Kirdat told Sakal Times that creating awareness among parents is the responsibility of the local governing bodies like municipal councils or gram panchayats and it seems they are not doing their job well.
“In urban areas this is not an issue as there is a huge response from RTE applicants. However, in rural areas because of reluctant attitude of education officers or they being burdened with other work like updating online databases, RTE admissions are facing problems in implementation,” Kirdat said.
He said the reimbursement given to schools by the government is less compared to the fees in city schools. However, the amount is sufficient for rural schools. Another reason why education officers get away without taking responsibility is there is no provision of accountability on part of the education officer even if the RTE admissions do not take place, stated Kirdat. Thus, awareness is must, not just for the parents, but also for the education officers.
Illiteracy, a major hurdle
“There are schools in rural areas that strive to bring students to give admissions under RTE,” said Arun Thorat, President, Pune District Secondary and Higher Secondary School Principals Association. He added, “It's true that in many places the parents are not aware but at many places, they do not support us either. Illiteracy is the major hurdle here. They fail to understand the importance of education for their children while sometimes they are busy making a livelihood and just do not care about admissions. In such cases, special counselling is required for the parents, to increase the RTE admissions."
RM Gaikwad, a Principal of a school in a rural part of Aurangabad said, “A clause in RTE defines that the parents who have income below Rs one lakh can seek admission under it, but even in rural areas, very few people have annual income below Rs one lakh but not above Rs 1.5 lakh. Thus many deserving students, who need RTE to study stay out of the system, and the seats go vacant. So there has been an insistence to change the income margin so that more children could be included under RTE, and the government should take this seriously.”
With the stories about the humiliation and harassment faced by RTE students at big schools are rampant, many parents prefer not to admit their children to such schools, thus nullifying the whole purpose of RTE.