NGO opens institution for Mumbai kids shunned by schools

Mumbai, June 29 (IANS) Unable to secure admission for poor children under the Right to Education (RTE) law, a Mumbai NGO Saturday launched an institution exclusively for those denied entry to regular schools.

Christened “RTE School India”, it was launched by a few like-minded people led by non-profit organisation Desh Seva Samiti (DSS) director Avisha Kulkarni, at her home in Goregaon in north Mumbai.

“These children are from the most economically weaker sections like rag-pickers, or from families of domestic workers, autorickshaw drivers and hawkers and we shall impart them the best of pre-primary education under the RTE,” Kulkarni told IANS.

She said the children – aged three-five – have been given uniforms, schoolbags, books and other articles and they shall proudly attend school like regular children from Monday.

“We were compelled to take this step since no Maharashtra education department official was ready to help in any manner to implement the provisions of the RTE law, and arrange admissions for them in neighbourhood schools,” Kulkarni claimed.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, popularly known as RTE law, came into force April 1, 2010 and accorded a legal right to every child aged 6-14 years that he would be provided eight years of elementary education in an age appropriate classroom in the vicinity of his neighbourhood.

Kulkarni said despite efforts by the DSS and her own NGO, Women and Child Empowerment, most private schools shut the doors on deserving and eligible underprivileged kids under the RTE. Her NGO assists the DSS financially.

She also approached the state education department officials, but they proved more helpful to the school managements than the kids seeking admission.

“Only the unaided minority schools are exempt from the RTE law’s provisions. When we visited various schools, I was shocked to see government officials actually advising them to get an unaided minority school certificate from the government,” Kulkarni said.

The situation today is that reputed schools which have been working for decades are now making a beeline to get this certificate and circumvent the RTE law – an issue which she plans to challenge in the Supreme Court.

Even her meeting with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan March 26 did not help change the bureaucratic mindset, she said.

“Chavan issued strict instructions to the education department officials to ensure admission for all such children under RTE law. Sadly, even the chief minister’s orders have been flouted by the bureaucracy and I have been compelled to take donations and start my own small school with 40 students, 20 in two batches owing to space constraints,” she said.

Kulkarni assured that after the pre-primary education, these children would be prepared to take admission to any of the top schools in the city.

Her bigger worry is that there are another 60 children in the queue but she has no space or resources to accommodate them and help them achieve their dream of securing education, as envisioned in the RTE law.

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