It’s over three years since the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was implemented in the state. However, many schools in the city seem blissfully ignorant of it, as over 74.19% of the seats reserved under the RTE in these schools remained vacant in the 2013-2014 academic year.
According to the data available with the office of the education inspector in the city’s south, north and west zones, of the 12,818 seats available at the entry level, 9,510 remained vacant.
“Schools deny entry to students saying seats aren’t available, but data shows such schools prefer seats remaining vacant to admitting students from poorer sections,” said Chetan Pednekar of Maharashtra Navniraman Vidyarthi Sena, who had sought the information through RTI.
Among the three zones, south had the most number of seats filled — 32.78%. North registered only 21.9% admission while west filled up only 26.9% of the seats.
Most of the schools that had failed to fill up the seats, have, however, blamed it on lack of demand. “Parents have preferences. In some schools, there is a waiting list for admission, but in many others no one applies. So one can’t blame only schools,” said the principal of a suburban school.
Admissions for the 25% of seats reserved under the RTE for the next academic year are set to begin on February 15, but parents who are looking to admit their children are apprehensive. “I send my son to a civic school, but want to enrol my daughter in a better school. But people in the neighbourhood say such schools won’t give us admission,” said Saira Banu, a Dharavi resident.
RTE activists are demanding that the government take action to ensure that parents are not turned away. “I don’t believe seats remain vacant because students aren’t available. Last year, 36 eligible students in my area were unable to get admission,” said RTE activist Avisha Kulkarni.
“The government must release a list of schools that are required to admit students under the RTE so that such institutions don’t come up with flimsy excuses later,” she added.
North 5,296 Number of seats available under RTE
4,140 Vacant seats
South 2,276 Number of seats available under RTE
1,530 Vacant seats
West 5,246 Number of seats available under RTE
3,840 Vacant seats.