Seven hundred schools in Pune will observe a ‘black day’ on 12 October to highlight the financial losses Right to Education (RTE) Act has saddled on them.
Teaching, non-teaching staff, principals and owners of the city schools will wear black dresses and black armbands to generate awareness about the contribution of private unaided schools to education, and yet how they have been driven into a tight corner due to the failure of the government to reimburse costs incurred over 25 per cent reservation for children of economically weaker section and disadvantaged group as per RTE stipulations.
Amit Chandra, national coordinator of National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) said private schools have set aside the 25 per cent reservation since 2012, whether they are being availed or not.
“We are important stakeholders and thus, are asking for inclusion in decision and policy making processes,” he said.
The demand follows NISA’s country-wide survey that revealed schools are shutting due to losses: 7,349 schools have been shut in Maharashtra over the last four years due to the Act, and 3,000 schools were closed due to the non-reimbursement of the expenses.
Chandra said most schools were “self-financed” and which were required to run the school on a one-acre property with a fixed deposit of Rs 5 lakhs for three years. Additionally, it was difficult for these institutions to sustain by educating 25 per cent students for free, and charging other just between Rs 500 and 3,000 per month.
In Pune owners had to sell schools, said Jagruti Dharmadhikari, president of Independent English School Association (IESA). The state government has made it compulsory for the schools to keep RTE quota seats vacant till Class VIII. Rajendra Singh, said, “Around 8-12 per cent of the quota remains vacant” due to a lack of demand, as parents of children entitled to the quota have options now. At the same time, students belonging to the general category are also not able to avail the seats, said Singh.
The state government has assured that the payment problem will be resolved soon, as the protest drew closer.
To know more about the ill-effects of the Right To Education Act, do read our special issue: The Horror Called RTE