When Right to Education (RTE) Act inserted provision for reserving 25 percent of seats for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), it was fervently hoped that the novel approach would be a boon to the dismal education system in the country. However, the supposed boon has turned into a hydra-headed monster for the educational sector with controversies leaping in swathes and becoming a nationwide phenomenon.
From glaring discrepancy in the number of admissions in various states, manipulation of lottery system in selecting students, to alleged discrimination in the top notch private schools, the problems which are being observed are of serious nature negating the benefits the RTE Act was supposed to deliver.
In fact, each state has its own share of troubles and complaints. For an instance, in Odisha, parents, educationists and rights activists have alleged that privately-run schools have continued to deceive the State government over admissions of EWS. Sanjukta Panigrahi, a parent, alleged in a press conference that, “several private schools in an attempt to avoid admitting students from EWS come up with advertisements for very few seats. Subsequently, they keep on adding students as per their convenience. The fraud in private schools would not have been possible had the government had information as to what is going on these schools.”
In the national capital, 300 schools were identified as defaulters for not sharing the status of admissions and the state government had sent notifications to them for compliance including the constitution of 24 teams for surprise inspection in a random manner. Adding to the woe is the revelation of scamsters manipulating the lottery system and short listing some of the children who are living within 1 km of the school, according to the investigation by the Crime Branch.
Not too far, in Gurgaon, another disheartening fact relating to the discrimination of EWS students surfaced recently. According to complaints lodged by a bunch of parents with the additional deputy commissioner, students are being harassed by the school authorities for payment of fee, which as per the act is not their liability to pay. In one case, a ninth grader Ankit was allegedly slapped twice by DPS Manesar Chairman Ravinder Yadav and was even told not to come back to school and send his younger sister to school, an allegation which was vehemently rejected by the school authority.
That these acts would have dire consequences on a child’s mental psyche are undeniable, they also reveal a sorry state of affairs against which affirmative action has become a prerogative for ensuring the effectiveness of RTE Act itself.