Even after five years of introducing the 25 per cent free education quota under the Right to Education Act, many hurdles have ensured that the implementation remains a problem. Continued malpractices observed in the implementation of the Act form the majority of them.
During the first three years of implementing 25 per cent quota reservation, the major hurdle in the process was a large number of seats allotted remaining vacant. Officials say this was mainly because, single applicant would get admission in multiple schools and there was no system in place to prevent this from happening as the seat allocation process was done offline.
Ever since the Karnataka Department of Public Instructions moved to online system of admission in 2015, there have been some imporvements.
“In the last two years, the first problem of multiple admissions has been taken care of by the online system, which ensures that one applicant is allotted only one seat. However, there remain vacant seats under this reservation as parents either don’t opt for certain private unaided schools or do not go for the schools allotted to them (hence, opting for private admissions),” says Puja Minni, Senior Research Associate at Bengaluru based Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS).
Puja has been a part of the team from CBPS that conducted independent study on the implementation of RTE Act in Bengaluru in the year 2013 and 2016.
‘Online application process not effective enough’
However, RTE Students and Parents Association Chief Secretary B N Yogananda says despite online admission process, there have been instances where a student gets seats in two or more schools in different wards.
“This is nothing but violation of the RTE Act. The Act mandates that a student can seek admission in a school within the ward in which he/she resides. Yet several parents misuse the provisions of the Act and apply for seats in schools in other wards too. Due to improper verification of documents, there have been instances where students have got seats in two or three schools in different wards. The online system has not succeeded in solving this problem,” he says.
The Department of Public Instructions has come up with a solution for this, by making Aadhaar verification mandatory for children during the admission. “This year, we have made Aadhaar verification mandatory for every child seeking admission under the RTE Act. It will help not only in establishing the identity of the child, but also in de-duplication,” says K Ananda, Director of Department of Public Instructions (Primary).
Making Aadhaar compulsory could be a problem
But making Aadhaar mandatory is likely to create yet another problem. Yogananda says most of the migrant workers who come to Bengaluru will have their Aadhaar registered in their native (with the permanent address), and do not like to change the address, as it will make them lose certain benefits associated with the Aadhaar card.
This, in turn, prevents them from applying under the RTE Act as the Department has made Aadhaar mandatory as address proof, thus depriving children of migrant parents from availing seats under the RTE Act. The only option left before them is to either admit their ward in their hometown/village if at all there is a school nearby or in a government school in the city where they live, he points out.
Exclusion of RTE kids in classrooms
Several issues crop up once the child starts going to school. There have been instances where RTE students are segregated or discriminated in schools.
In 2015, a complaint was lodged against a school in Rajaji Nagar in Bengaluru, for putting the RTE quota children in a separate classroom. This was against the very principle of the RTE Act which emphasises on inclusive education. A complaint was registered against the school, and the school was made to stop discrimination against RTE students.
Puja from CBPS notes thatexclusion happens within the classroom. Based on her study she says teachers are not trained and sensitised to deal with RTE children. “They often point at these students and call them “RTE child”, “slow learner” making it obvious in front of the class. Both teachers and school authorities have an attitude of resentment towards them,” she notes.
Schools demand extra fee
Apart from discrimination, the school managements also force the parents to cough up money from their pockets towards buying uniforms, textbooks, shoes and for other activities. Nagasimha G Rao, Convenor of RTE Task Force says in most of the schools parents are forced to pay additional fee, other than what the government reimburses the schools.
“The RTE Rules prohibit schools from levying additional fee, charges or expenses on kids from disadvantaged group. But a large number of schools demand fee from the parents and most of the parents compromise on this front out of fear that their child might be discriminated in the class if they fail to pay the fee,” Rao says.
When this reporter randomly called a few RTE parents to know if at all they pay additional fee to schools, all of them agreed that they pay certain amount of fee to schools. Lakshmidevi, a resident of Yeshwantpur whose daughter studies in a CBSE school in the neighbourhood has paid Rs 8,500 for uniforms, shoes and books this year.
Interestingly, most of the parents were not very concerned. “I don’t mind paying Rs 6,000 or 7,000 on my daughter’s education. If my daughter had not got the seat under RTE quota, I would have ended up spending much more than what I am paying now. So I do not want to create a fuss out of it,” says S M Santhosh whose child studies in a school in Rajaji Nagar.
Efforts to address complaints
Problems related to RTE implementation are aplenty. Statistics from the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) reflect the same. Here are the number of complaints related to RTE that the Commission received in last four years:
- 2013 - 124 cases
- 2014 - 96 cases
- 2015 - 85 cases
- 2016 - 64 cases
Commission Chairperson Kripa Alva says several of these cases are related to discrimination of RTE kids and corporal punishment. “We take up RTE cases on priority. Normally, we give summon the school to appear before the commission within three days of receiving the complaint, and the case is disposed in two or three weeks,” she says.
Despite KSCPCR making its efforts to address such complaints, Yogananda from RTE Parents’ Association says the cases that reach the doors of KSCPCR are only the tip of the iceberg. “A lot of cases do not surface at all. Mostly because either the parents are afraid to raise their voice or they are unaware of the provisions of the law,” he says.
Absence of complaint redressal mechanism
Nagasimha Rao from RTE Task Force points out the lack of complaint redressal mechanism for RTE cases that acts as a hindrance in implementing 25 per cent quota. “KSCPCR can only make recommendations, it has no power to issue directions to schools and the department,” he says.
In cases of discrimination or schools extracting fee from parents, normally complaint is made to the Block Education Officer or the Deputy Director of Public Instructions. The other option is to approach the District Education Regulatory Authority (DERA) headed by the Deputy Commissioner of the respective district.
However, in 2013, the State government, through a notification, empowered the local authorities (Standing Committee for Education at Zilla Panchayat and Standing Committee for Social Justice at Taluk Panchayat) by giving them the power to redress the grievances related to the right of the child under the RTE Act. Local authorities could set up a small group consisting of three persons to enquire and submit reports. If the complainant is unhappy with the orders passed by the local authority, he/she could approach the KSCPCR.
Nagasimha Rao says these mechanisms are also non-existent and less efficient. “Often the complaints are not addressed or it would take a long time,” he says.
Yogananda from the RTE Students and Parents Association emphasises on the need to streamline the system and form a vigilance squad and constitute a body exclusively to address RTE 25 per cent quota related complaints.
No impact assessment till date
Despite several glitches in the RTE implementation, even after five years of the Act coming into force, the Karnataka government has not taken any initiative so far to assess the effectiveness of RTE implementation in the State or in Bengaluru. Any attempt to get statistics and data related to the RTE goes futile.
The Department does not even seem to be interested to support the organisations that would carry out the study. In December 2015, Karnataka Child Rights Observatory wrote to the Commissioner of Public Instructions proposing to conduct a study on the effectiveness of RTE implementation and changes in the education scenario that have taken place between 2012 and 2015. The Observatory requested the Department to grant permission to visit 10 schools in each district including government, private aided and unaided schools.
However, in a reply (a copy of which is available with Citizen Matters), Director of Public Instructions (on behalf of the Commissioner), declined to grant permission to the Observatory to visit the schools and stated “the government will conduct a survey if and when the need arises.”
When asked whether the department has any plans to carry out a survey on RTE, an officer from the Department of Public Instructions said they have no such plans in near future though there is a need for the same.
However, he said a PhD scholar from Oxford University, UK, has taken up the subject of implementation of RTE in four districts of Karnataka and Delhi for his PhD. “He has conducted surveys in Bengaluru Urban, Rural, Gulbarga and Bellary districts and we hope the study report will be out next year and will help us assess the situation” the officer says.
This story sums up the issues in implementation of 25 per cent quota under the RTE Act. The next story explains how the schools are trying to evade the RTE Act under the guise of minority status.