Out of 40,500 applications, only 3,145 students got admissions in private schools under Right to Education, which comes to less than 8 per cent.
Five years after the central government’s Right to Education (RTE) scheme was rolled out, a look at this year’s RTE admissions in the city shows that giving a private school education remains a distant dream for a large section of underprivileged families.
A total of 347 private unaided schools in the city participated in RTE for the academic year 2018-19. Data from the three rounds of RTE admissions held from March to August shows that out of the approximately 40,500 applications received by the BMC, which is the RTE implementing authority, only 6,619 were allotted seats in schools. Out of them, only 3,145 students finally got admissions in these schools, which means less than eight per cent of applicants finally managed to secure admission.
Among the private schools, Podar International School, Powai (CBSE) admitted the highest number of RTE students. Against its RTE intake capacity (25 per cent of total intake) of 83, it admitted 77 students at the entry level of Class I.
The biggest problem activists pointed out for the low figure was the delay in admissions caused by the boycott by private schools due to pending RTE dues from the state government. The schools resumed admissions in May only after an order from the Bombay High Court.
“The process cannot take so much time,” pointed out Mukhtar Ahmed, secretary of a Dharavi-based NGO Bal Vikas. “The delay benefits the schools as parents end up taking admission in BMC or private schools by paying fees.”
While the first-round lottery was held in March, the second round took place three months later in June. “Though the government warned of punitive action against schools refusing to take RTE admissions, no such action was initiated,” said Sudhir Paranjpe of Andheri-based NGO Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti.
SC Kedia, honorary secretary, Federation of Schools Association of Maharashtra, an umbrella organisation of private unaided schools, agreed it was the first year where such a delay had occurred. “We have been cooperating with the government. The delay was due to non-reimbursement of dues. A chunk of the funds has come in, but some dues still remain,” Kedia told Mirror.
Bar code confusion
Much confusion was caused this year owing to a small procedural change in the RTE application process this year, pointed out Paranjpe. “Unlike previous years, parents had to enter the number below the bar code in the income certificate, instead of the application. This created a lot of confusion as many made mistakes while filling forms. There was no provision for rectifying the number, which made matters worse. If you changed the application, your entry was invalidated, after which you had to go to the office of the deputy education officer to make changes. Even after the faulty entry was cancelled and parents could re-apply, schools refused admission saying they had filled the form twice.”
He said the selection criteria for each round was also different. “The first round took students who lived within 2 km of the school, the second round had the slab of 2-3 km and the third round was for children outside the 3 km range. Many parents reside in slums and chawls, which cannot be found on Google Maps, so they give the nearest location. But after allotment, schools again denied admission claiming wrong location.”
“One prominent school even asked why they get so many applications from Dharavi,” an official source said.
A total of 241 applications were rejected this year due to duplication and other issues.
BMC education officer Mahesh Palkar said parents were raising the bogey of bar codes, when they had filled multiple entries by changing a letter or two in their names. “Can’t they enter a number correctly? They are making the bar code an excuse. They basically duplicated entries to enter the lottery process. In the second round, we selected nearly 800 names, but only some took admissions,” Palkar told Mirror. BMC will hold a final round of admissions.
Out of the 347 schools that participated in the process, 45 schools, mostly Marathi medium, did not receive any applications at all.