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Mainstream, VOL LV No 38 New Delhi September 9, 2017

Denying Children Admission on Technical Grounds goes against the RTE Act’s Spirit

Saturday 9 September 2017, by Sandeep Pandey

The following article is being published on the occasion of Teacher’s Day which fell on September 5.

The founder-manager of the City Montessori School in Lucknow, Jagdish Gandhi, has recently published full-page advertisements in the local editions of all national dailies claiming that even though he would like to admit children under section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education Act, 2009, the children, whose admissions were ordered by the District Magistrate and the Basic Shiksha Adhikari in his school, did not fulfil one or more criteria required for such admissions. The children either live more than a kilometre away, the definition of ‘neighbourhood’ stated by the Uttar Pradesh Government and a necessary criterion to be fulfilled by children seeking admission under the aforementioned section of the Act, or were less than six years of age whereas the Act applies to children in the age-group of six to 14 years.

In an order delivered by Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh of the Allahabad Hight Court on August 9, 2017 regarding the admission of a child, Chaitanya Dev, to the Nursery class in Maharishi Patanjali Vidya Mandir of Allahabad, in the matter of Sudhir Kumar, father of Chaitanya, vs State of UP and others, said that for schools which run Kindergarten, Preparatory or Nursery classes the provisions of the Act apply even if the age of the child is less than six years. The school claimed that the child did not live in the neighbourhood. On this the Judge reprimanded the school saying that since it had not admitted even one child against the 202 seats which were supposed to be reserved for children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections, which is 25 per cent of the strength of the entry level classes in this school as prescribed by the Act, the criterion of neighbourhood was irrelevant. Only if the school had admitted 25 per cent children under the aforementioned categories, the question of neighbourhood could have been examined.

The Judge took the school to task saying that since the school had wasted one full year of the child, it was now its responsibility to educate the child till Class XII instead of the stipulated Class VIII. The government will compensate the education of the child from Classes I to VIII at the rate of Rs 450 per month but the shool will have to take care of the expenses on Chaitanya’s education from Classes IX to XII on its own. He added that if any of the buses run by the school to carry its children go in the direction of Chaitanya’s house, then the school will have to provide free bus service to him for the duration of his study in the school.

It is hoped that after such a clearcut and strict order by the HC, the schools, which have been playing truant in admission of children under the Act, will now stop resisting the entry of children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections into their precincts. The Judge said that denying admission to children under section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act on technical grounds is against the spirit of the Act. The Act has been made to facilitate the admission of children who are denied education. If the private schools will put all their energies in blocking the admission of underprivileged children then the purpose of the Act would be defeated.

Jagdish Gandhi challenged the admission of 31 children in the academic year 2015-16 under the Act ordered by the DM, Lucknow. The HC and then the Supreme Court ordered him to admit 13 out of these 31 children who lived in the neighbourhood of one km. In 2016-17 Jagdish Gandhi again refused to admit 55 children, 14 of whom are still in court against him even after the entire academic year is over. Imitating the CMS, several other schools like Navyug Radiance, owned by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sudhir Halwasiya, City International, owned by Jagdish Gandhi’s daughter Sunita Gandhi, Dr Virendra Swaroop Public School, Mahanagar and two branches of Saint Mary Intermediate College did not admit a total of 105 children in 2016-17.

In the current academic year 2017-18, 296 admissions have been ordered by the local administration and of the 167 children who have approached the CMS, all of them have been declared undeserving by it. According to the school, 117 of them live outside the limit of one km, 135 are below six years of age, 89 are already enrolled in other schools and 38 don’t qualify to be in the economically weaker section category. Some of the children fail on more than one criterion. The number of schools, which are defiant about not admitting children under the Act, is going up every year as a result of the CMS’ stance. It is entirely because of the CMS that admission to schools under section 12(1)(c) has become such an uphill task.

If Jagdish Gandhi is rightly claiming that all admissions ordered by the office of the BSA are faulty, then action must be taken against the BSA. However, if the BSA is correct then the administration or the government must take action against the truant schools.

An important question which arises is whether Jagdish Gandhi has the right to examine the criteria required for admission for each of the children who are admitted to his school. If in this manner every non-governmental person started examining the correctness of the govern-ment’s decision, then the entire work of the government can come to standstill. For example, if the fair price shop-owner took a stand that s(he) would first examine the genuineness of the ration cards owners before distributing the foodgrains as part of the Public Distribution System, then the whole scheme would be hampered.

In the same advertisement, published by Jagdish Gandhi, in which he has given reasons for not admitting children under the RTE Act, he has also claimed in one corner that he and his wife, Bharti Gandhi, do not own any private property, jewellery nor have large bank balances. The question which must be asked is: where is Jagdish Gandhi getting the funds from for publishing expensive advertisements and hiring costly lawyers like Shanti Bhushan and Abhishek Manu Singhvi? Is it from the fees that he charges from the parents of children who study in 20 branches of the CMS? Does he have a right to waste the hard-earned money of parents on contesting the admissions of underprivileged children in his school?

Noted social activist and Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey is the Vice-President of the Socialist Party (India). He was elected to this post at the founding conference of the party at Hyderabad on May 28-29, 2011.

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