Faced with a whopping 659 unrecognised schools across the state, as per the 2012-13 survey of District Information System for Education (DISE) — Pune district tops the list with 120 such schools — the State education board has constituted a recommittee to review these schools for possible grant of recognition.
Only, the ten criteria against which the eligibility of these unrecognised schools will be measured against include, above all, proof of self-finance besides a minimum half-acre area (in urban areas) for library, playground and laboratory, a 1:45 teacher-pupil ratio — demands that educationists say would be beyond the capacity of such schools to meet.
For schools that do make the cut, this recognition will not mean automatic eligibility for any grants from the government. A 12-member team from Mumbai headed by S N Joshi, under-secretary, education department, will work with the officers in Pune and would come out with a report within a fortnight.
According to Suman Shinde, deputy director of education (Pune), “If the schools meet all these ten criteria and are selffinanced, we will give them recognition. We will look at the policy and also hear out the schools, asking them to explain what their issues are. Only then will we be able to come up with anything conclusive.”
The Pune division committee, under Shinde, is looking at both primary and secondary schools. This committee would act as a bridge between the policy makers and schools failing to fulfill the criteria.
Education sector activist Razia Patel said the government needs to rework these criteria, saying the stipulation of self-finance is in itself selfcontradictory.
“Self-finance as a must is contradictory to the promise of free and compulsory quality education. If these schools weren’t able to fulfill the RTE mandate, how can they suddenly be equipped to meet the new criteria?
The government cannot simply deny recognition to schools on the basis of lack of money, and if they are doing so, they should facilitate community participation,” Patel said.
Former UNICEF programme officer and activist, Vijaya Chauhan, was dismissive of the 10- point criteria. “The government has failed in fulfilling its responsibility of providing the fundamental right to education.
These schools appealing for recognition are mostly very small and located in remote areas of the state. If the government denies them money, how are they going to operate?
The government is blindly implementing the rules without looking into the ground realities. It is giving false hope to people on paper, but in reality, this will lead to more kids being denied education, rather than getting it,” she said.
Shreedhar Salunke, former State education director, said, “What the government is doing is justified, the rules have to be followed and if schools are failing to meet the mandate after the review, they should be shut down.”
Pravin Mahajan, executive director at Janarth, a non-profit social awareness organisation, said, “In Maharashtra, 15 per cent schools are run under public-private partnerships, seven per cent are private and the remaining 77 per cent are government- operated.
As most of the governmentrun schools aren’t complying with the RTE norms, the government has no right to target other schools, when they themselves have not been able to meet the norms in their schools.”
Earlier this year, a division bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered a probe into the manner in which RTE was being implemented in that state over the last one year.
The Andhra government authorities told the bench that after the court’s initiative, they had closed down as many as 572 unrecognised schools in Vishakhapatnam alone. While the court proceedings were on, the Andhra government issued two government orders, granting certain exemptions to schools for a specified period.
This was done away with as soon the matter reached the court, and it was declared that no such exemptions could granted under any circumstances.
While the defining criteria is that the schools must be self-financed, the 10 that will decide recognition are:
• Grant of recognition will only be till Class VIII, and is not extendable. It does not imply any obligation to recognise or grant affiliation beyond Class VIII
• Mandatory allotment of 25% seats for students from deprived, weaker sections of society
• The 45-hr week for teachers, mandated by the RTE Act, would be split into 30 hours (in classroom) and 15 hours (for preparation), which can be outside the school
• Pupil-teacher ratio of one teacher per 45 students per class
• Admission cannot be denied citing lack of age proof or on grounds of religion, caste, race or place of birth
• Playground, laboratory and library are a must, minimum school area of half acre in metros, one acre in cities and two acres in rural areas
• Hygiene, cleanliness, separate toilets for boys and girls, drinking water
• Ensure minimum teaching equipment — desks, chairs, blackboard, sport equipment
• Minimum qualification for teachers as mandated under section 23(1) of the RTE Act
• School accounts should be audited and certified
► The govt is blindly implementing the rules without looking into the ground realities. It is giving false hope to people on paper
- Vijaya Chauhan Former UNICEF prog officer