I was recently travelling in an auto in Bangalore when the auto driver suddenly launched into a conversation about his family. Though initially not interested, I started listening to him, as he suddenly spoke about the Right to Education (RTE). He said that education was the sole wealth he could bequeath to his children. He hoped that the RTE Act would help him secure admission for his son, the next year in a good private school.
He seemed to think that the RTE act would finally ensure that education is not merely a privilege of the rich. However, this is far from the truth. Come April, the admission season starts with nervous parents prepping their kids for interviews, long queues outside schools, huge “development” fees to be paid, and of course the RTE.
This year has seen a spate of incidents that reflect the elitist and capitalistic mindset of our schools. In late March, a series of central board schools refused to admit students on the grounds that the schools were affiliated to boards like the ICSE and CBSE and the state could not question them. According to the information given by the the Department of Public Instructions, a majority of such complaints are from Bangalore city. There were also a lot of alleged irregularities in the lottery system adopted by the schools that have implemented the RTE. There have also been instances where the schools have simply cited minor mistakes in the application forms of parents who are single or uneducated to turn down prospective students.
In a shocking development last week, a group of six year old kids have moved the Karnataka high court, seeking to know why they could not be admitted to a private school in Kalyan Nagar, Bangalore, under the Right To Education (RTE) quota. These kids seek to be admitted to Class 1. They have complained that the school authorities failed to issue an endorsement as to why they could not be given admission under RTE. They also contended that the school had admitted students under RTE in the previous academic year. They said they would lose an entire year if not admitted. Our Netas are fond of saying “The law will take its own course”, but in that course what happens to the formative years of these kids?
A set of 25 schools claiming to have secured “minority” status and therefore refusing to admit the students who have already been allotted a seat is the latest in the series of events. 17 schools claim to be minority institutions though they don’t figure on any list or have any official documentation for the same. A classic case of “thinking outside the box” to shut their “hallowed halls” to the poor and the downtrodden and to keep their coffers full.
‘A child without education is like a bird without wings’, claims an ancient Tibetan proverb. We are clipping the wings of these children by denying them their right. Of what use is talk of smart cities and growth when the basic education of the future youth of this country is neglected? Is this the India of the future?