Hoard of issues plague functioning of RTE

Pranita Roy & Prajakta Joshi
Saturday, 31 March 2018

Pune: Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was established on April 1, 2010. The purpose of it was the welfare of underprivileged children and bring them into the bracket of education. However, even after eight years, around 68 per cent children are out of school as per the recent Maharashtra State Economic Survey result, defeating the purpose of RTE. 

Pune: Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was established on April 1, 2010. The purpose of it was the welfare of underprivileged children and bring them into the bracket of education. However, even after eight years, around 68 per cent children are out of school as per the recent Maharashtra State Economic Survey result, defeating the purpose of RTE. 

Schools at distance more than 1 km and 3 km
According to the recent National Achievement Survey (NAS), almost 18 per cent of Std III and about 16 per cent of the students from Std V to VIII are finding it difficult to reach schools. 

Many of the surveys have confirmed that the new schools are beyond 1 km and 3 km for primary and secondary students respectively which is itself a breach of RTE Act. Amid closure/shifting of 1,300 schools, it is very concerning that the transfer of the students to the new schools is not happening as per the norms. According to sources, most schools that have been admitting the affected students are situated in rural areas which also consists of mountain routes.

Lack of transportation
Educationists and activists have also claimed that as assured by Education Minister Vinod Tawde, affected students will be assisted with free transportation to reach school.

But, no provisions have been made yet and no special budget has been allotted for this matter in the State budget.“Students from rural areas are usually from the poor background and they cannot arrange private transportation. This could be one of the reasons for the rise in drop outs. The State cannot deny the problem. It has to make proper policy changes. Even though these surveys aren’t 100 pc perfect, they project a trend,” said Nihal Kirnalli, an educationist.

Pending refunds issue
Amidst tussle between schools and government over dues, RTE admissions were not up to mark this year.

According to sources, Rs 3,634 crore allotted for RTE in Maharashtra are unspent. Hundreds of schools had decided not to participate in procedure this year until the government assured them about payment. 

“It is indeed surprising that such huge amount dedicated for the special purpose is unspent and no one is speaking about the issue. With all the allotted money the department has, there should have been no dues in the first place,” said Kirnalli.

Corruption in the education system
Corruption is an ailing issue in the education system. With the State government not clearing the dues of school, there are few education officers who are taking advantage of the situation.Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Pune, had arrested the superintendent of the education department of Pune Zilla Parishad, Shilpa Menon (45) and a clerk Machhindra Sarukh (47), for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 50,000. They had demanded Rs 1.5 lakh for releasing bills to a school for students under the RTE Act. 

According to ACB, the school had admitted students under the RTE for which they get a grant from the government. However, to release the bills the accused were demanding a bribe. The school officials lodged a complaint with ACB. A case has been registered against them for offences under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. 

However, Menon has claimed that those bribes were taken under the supervision of Education officer of Pune Zilla Parishad, Shailaja Darade. Although, Darade stated the allegations to be false.

Less number of seats in Pune
Already, in comparison to the numbers of applications received under RTE are double of the available seats in the city, which means there are two candidates against one seat reserved for RTE in schools. What adds to the hurdles in RTE facility to economically weaker section children is less funds released by the State government. 

Furthermore, over 3,000 private schools across Maharashtra have refused to enforce RTE as State government failed to reimburse the amount promised to schools against 25 per cent seats for RTE children. This adds to the hurdle in RTE. 

Shailaja Darade, Education Officer, Pune Zila Parishad, said, “We have 16,422 vacancies under RTE in the city. Although, we have a huge response, that is almost double the number of seats, there is no extension to these seats. We can only give admissions at the available seats, purely through a lottery system and the rest will have to take admissions through the regular process.”

Rs. 800 crore yet to be reimbursed
- The State government has released a fund amount of Rs 138.28 crore for clearing the dues of schools against 25 per cent reservation of RTE seats on March 27. 
- “Around Rs 800 crore of the amount is yet to be reimbursed by the State government. This data is restricted only to schools associated with Independent English School Association (IESA), which is about 350 out of which approximately 60 schools including PMC and PCMC jurisdiction. It is not even 1/4th of the amount to be refunded. This means there is still a lot of pending amount,” said Jagruti Dharmadhikari, President of IESA.

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