Mumbai Congress Chief Varsha Gaikwad Criticises Govt For Exempting Certain Private Schools From RTE Admissions

Mumbai Congress Chief Varsha Gaikwad Criticises Govt For Exempting Certain Private Schools From RTE Admissions

Calling it an 'illegal' move, Gaikwad said that the government is trying to wiggle out of its responsibilities under RTE Act and is widening the social divide.

Musab QaziUpdated: Saturday, February 17, 2024, 10:15 PM IST
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Mumbai Congress chief Varsha Gaikwad | ANI

Mumbai Congress chief Varsha Gaikwad has lashed out at the Maharashtra government for its recent decision to exempt private unaided schools in the vicinity of government schools from having to admit marginalised students on 25% of their seats under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

"Govt trying to wiggle out of responsibilities"

Calling it an 'illegal' move, Gaikwad said that the government is trying to wiggle out of its responsibilities under RTE Act and is widening the social divide. She claimed that the decision will particularly hit the poor children in big cities such as Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nagpur, as almost all the unaided schools in these areas meet the distance criterion.

RTE Act stipulates that 25% of the seats at the entry point - Class 1 or pre-primary section - in private unaided schools should be reserved for children from economically weaker and disadvantaged sections.

However, last week, the state government amended its RTE rules to exclude from this mandate those private schools that are located within one-kilometer radius of government and aided schools. While the government claimed that the move was aimed at promoting government schools, several educationists and activists have criticised the change in norms.

"BJP is only furthering its 'two India' theory"

“With this modification, the BJP is only furthering its 'two India' theory of catering to the ultra-rich and violating the rights of the poor. It will result in widening the social divide in education - one where children from affluent backgrounds go to elite schools and those from impoverished sections go to other schools,” Gaikwad said in her statement.

The former state school education minister also threatened to move the court against the amendment. “It is imperative to note that the Act does not impose any such condition regarding the distance between schools. The modification contradicts the primary provision of the Act and is therefore illegal,” she said.

The Movement for Peace and Justice for Welfare (MPJ), a social organisation, has written to chief minister Eknath Shinde demanding to withdraw the amended rules. “Disadvantaged children often lack access to quality education in government schools due to various factors like overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure and teacher shortages. Denying them access to potentially better options in nearby private schools perpetuates and widens the educational gap between privileged and underprivileged communities,” the organisation wrote in its letter.

MPJ also contended that exempting certain schools from RTE admissions takes away the parents' choice. “Parents, especially those from marginalised backgrounds, should have the right to choose the school they believe will best serve their child's educational needs, regardless of location. This amendment restricts their options and undermines their agency in their child's education,” reads the letter.

The marginalised

This year, the state received a record 3.64 lakh applications for around 1.02 lakh seats reserved for marginalised students. However, only 94,700 of these applicants were selected and 82,879 eventually got a seat of their choice, leaving 19,090 seats without any takers. (The data is of 2023-24)

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