The rising aspirations of the urban poor families for breaking out of the clutches of poverty by educating their children finds stark reflection in their attempt to access the benefits of Right to Education (RTE), with demand for RTE seats for the next year doubling to a whopping 3.6 lakh, from 1.4 lakh last year.
There is immense pressure on neighbourhood private schools that have been fighting a losing battle against RTE, with the seats identified under RTE rising to 1.14 lakh for the coming academic year, the third year of RTE, against 75,000 last year.
In Bangalore alone, over 2,000 schools come under RTE and around 27,000 seats are available for children from families belonging to weaker sections.
Along with the increase in the number of applications, complaints from parents whose children were rejected seats by neighbourhood private schools, too have increased. On an average, the RTE Task Force is receiving about 17-20 complaints from parents everyday.
“We have been sorting out complaints regarding the selection process, and answering queries from parents,” said Umesh Aradhya, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights.
Given the demand, the selection of children against the seats is by lottery and the process has proved to be tedious work. As per the RTE guidelines, in order to maintain transparency, the lottery should be conducted with parents and officials present.
“But, as per the complaints lodged by parents with the RTE Task Force and the Child Rights Commission, it is learnt that the majority of the schools did not invite parents during the lottery,” said Nagasimha of Child Rights Trust, an NGO.
There were complaints even teachers involved in the selection process were not trained properly, said Nagasimha, who is also part of the RTE task force set up various NGOs.
The process of selection through lottery has also encouraged many parents to apply in a number of schools to increase the chances of their child getting a seat.
Nagaraju (name changed), a cab driver in Jayanagar, applied in a dozen schools in his neighbourhood for his six-year-old son, but no avail.
The child was not selected in a single school. Nagaraju says the selection process itself is dubious. He has complained to various authorities including the block education officer (BEO), but is yet to get a response.
As per the law, a child is eligible for admission under RTE in neighbour schools, i.e., schools within the radius of one km. But in Bangalore, considering that the wards are huge, the concept of neighbourhood school changes, and the selection is done ward-wise.
Right to Education is a game-changer that will lay the foundation for India’s future. But how has it affected your life or your child’s life? Do you think schools are a better place now as they are more inclusive? Or do you think it’s just an eyewash in some schools? Tweet your comments @dnaofblr using #RTE and we will publish them in these columns. Alternatively, you could write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org