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To hell with RTE: Lucknow schools refuse to admit a single poor child

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 7:47 IST

Thanks to the Right to Education (RTE) Act, every Indian child has a fundamental right to go to school. But the owners of several private schools in the capital of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, are denying admissions to underprivileged children under the provisions of the RTE Act. What's worse, the state government appears reluctant to take any action against them.

Section 12 (1) (c) of the RTE Act of 2009 states that of their total number of students, unaided private schools should admit 25% children belonging to underprivileged and economically weak families.

The State of the Nation Report on section 12 (1) (c) of RTE Act states: "The 25% mandate has often been labelled as the voucher system, as it enables the use of public funds to finance the schooling of children in private schools."

While a school provides admission at the entry level, the cost is borne by the state government.

Subsequent to the passing of the Act by Parliament, the state government framed its own UP Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules-2011.

But the implementation of the law has been tardy, with some private schools like the elite City Montessori School (CMS) and scores of others adopting a defiant posture to deny admission to underprivileged children.

UP's shame

Led by the CMS, 10 schools have not admitted a single child against their allotted quota. Ten other schools have only partially filled the 25% quota of children they are legally bound to admit.

It's not just the capital that has seen this disturbing trend. The State of the Nation report on section 12 (1) (c) shows that UP is lagging way behind states like Rajasthan and Delhi in implementing the rule. Till 2015, only 108 socially deprived and economically weaker children had been admitted by different schools across the state.

UP saw 108 admissions in 2014-15. MP and Rajasthan had 6.37 lakh and 4.36 lakh respectively

Although 108 admissions in 2014-15 is a big improvement compared to zero admissions in 2012-13 and 60 admissions in 2013-14, the state is nowhere near Madhya Pradesh, which provided admissions to 6.37 lakh children and Rajasthan's 4.36 lakh. Even Bihar and Orissa are way ahead of UP.

According to Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey, the Act has the potential to "impact six lakh underprivileged and poor children in UP alone, and drastically reduce segregation and promote social inclusivity".

Contempt of court

Pandey went on an indefinite hunger strike in 2015, demanding implementation of the law, but met with only partial success as the CMS approached the Allahabad High Court against the Act to deny admission to 13 Valmiki children. Other schools waited for the judgement in anticipation. The court directed the CMS to admit the 13 students whose names had been forwarded by the Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA).

But the school chose to ignore the order, leading to the filing of a contempt petition against school founder Jagdish Gandhi by the BSA. The petition was admitted, and a notice was issued to the school for "wilful disobedience" of the writ court's order.

Armed with letters from managements of some other schools, stating that they will provide admission to its quota of students, the CMS management challenged the order in the Supreme Court. While hearing petition, the Supreme Court is learnt to have observed that children can't be treated like footballs.

So far, the school managements have not admitted even a single student from their allotted quota. Schools like Ringing Bells, Kanpur Road, and Springdale, Gomtinagar, have to admit just one student each, but are refusing to take them. CMS's quota of 58 also remains unfilled.

Frustrating parents

Some of the aggrieved parents recently went to file a police complaint against Gandhi at the Hussainganj police station of Lucknow. The police did not register their complaint. On 4 August, the district magistrate gave the CMS two days' time to start the admission process, or face cancellation of its recognition.

Pandey describes the CMS management's obduracy a mockery of the law. He says the school wants to frustrate the parents so much that they drop the idea of sending their wards to the school. Other school managements are toeing the same line.

Social inclusivity, apparently, can go to hell.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 10 August 2016, 2:29 IST