Mumbai: The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has clarified that the private schools in the city running without recognition under Right to Education (RTE) Act are not 'unauthorised'.
These schools, which include some of the prominent educational institutes in the city, have failed to seek renewal of their recognition by the government as required under the RTE Act. For the past several months, activists have been demanding that the BMC act against these schools and charge penalties. However, the civic body's education department, in a recent communication, said that it has been urging the schools to get recognised, even as it advocated against penalising them.
Of 678 unaided private schools under BMC's jurisdiction, as many as 218 have been operating without the recognition certificate for the past several years, the BMC had revealed in response to a Right to Information filed by Maharashtra State Student-Parent Teacher Federation (MSSPTF), a city-based organisation. The activist body later filed a complaint against these schools with the Deputy Director of Education (Mumbai region).
The RTE Act 2009 requires all privately-run schools to obtain a certificate of recognition by fulfilling various norms pertaining to teachers, school building, teaching hours, library and equipment. The state's 2011 rules for implementing the act require schools to submit a self declaration-cum-application (commonly known as 'Form 1') to the District Education Officer. The certificate of recognition (known as 'Form 2') is awarded to a school following an on-site inspection.
For the schools running without approval, the law provides for imposing a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh as well as a recurring penalty of Rs 10,000 per day if schools continue to run without recognition. The schools must renew their recognition after every three years.
The BMC, in its response to the complainant, justifies its decision for not considering the schools without recognition as 'unauthorised' by referring to an April 2023 letter by the state Director of Education which specifies that the state board schools running without government permission and the non-state board schools lacking the state's No Objection Certificate (NOC) must be declared as unauthorized. The civic body, however, didn't elaborate how this directive exempts these unrecognised schools from any action or penalties.
MSSPTF's Nitin Dalvi remains unsatisfied by BMC's clarification, as he now seeks legal recourse for his complaint. "The schools are required to submit a number of documents and information including teacher-student ratio, structural audit report of school building and fire safety certificate to get recognition. In the absence of periodical inspection, there is no assurance that schools are meeting various RTE Act requirements," he said.