As the Right to Education procedure for the academic year 2022-23 is underway, parents are preparing to enroll their children in private schools based on the lottery decision. The admission procedure for parents to admit their child is scheduled to end on April 20, 2022 and the entire admission procedure is scheduled to end on September 30, 2022.
Some schools in the city are charging RTE students for uniforms and books, and parents have expressed concern about the additional costs. FPJ got a hold of documents, and according to the RTE Act 2009, Part 3, Section 5(1) of the Maharashtra Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2011, a child attending a school referred to in sections 2, and 12 is entitled to free textbooks, writing materials, and uniform.
Jyoti Salvi, a parent from Mumbai said, "We are asked to pay activity fees, thankfully, they have agreed to pay in instalments. In addition, we must pay an extra 6-7 thousand for books and uniforms, which the school will provide. This year we will manage to pay, but what if these fees are increased in the coming years, we will have to change the school."
In addition to the fee, parents have stated that their children are facing discrimination. According to Vijay Kanojiya, a parent and an RTE activist, "Our children face discrimination at school. Students enrolled in RTE are segregated. My child's school recently denied her a cap, which made her cry, and asked why she didn't get it when all of her classmates did. Along with this school is collecting computer and PTA membership fees."
He went on to say, "We have raised the issue with the education department, and they are looking into it."
For the issues faced by the students and parents, FPJ spoke to stakeholders and officials from the Education department. However, schools and the education department don't share a similar viewpoint.
According to the rules and sections of RTE 25%, schools are supposed to provide all the facilities to the RTE students. Devidas Mahajan, Education Inspector from South Zone said, "Schools receive RTE reimbursement only for tuition fees, and schools charge other costs such as uniforms and textbooks that they are not supposed to charge eventually. If any of the parents file a complaint about the issue, a hearing will be held, and the department will try to solve it."
On the other hand, schools believe that as the government only reimburses tuition fees, it becomes difficult for them to pay for extra expenses. Sanjay Kumar Chavan, Director of Ashoka Public School said, "As the reimbursement cost for RTE students has already been reduced in Maharashtra, it is difficult for schools to manage expenses while also providing all other activities and not charging uniform or book fees."
Shital Chavan, President of Maharashtra Parents Association said, "Whatever government implements, it doesn't reach the needy. RTE act is supposed to help kids who are disadvantaged or are from economically weaker sections of society, what's the point if they are charged money for other extra activities. How are economically weaker parents going to afford the extra charges?"