Bengaluru: Students from poor backgrounds may have got seats under the 25 per cent reserved quota of Right to Education (RTE), in private schools in the city. But now the question arises -- who should pay for their text books, shoes and uniforms?
Block Education Offices (BEOs) in the city have received 15 complaints from students over the issue. The children and their parents say that as per the RTE act, schools should distribute text books, uniforms, shoes etc free of cost. But schools are demanding payment, basing their demand on the handbook published by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) on the RTE act. This handbook states that schools need to give text books and uniforms free of cost only if the cost of these has been included in the annual fee.
In the middle of this tug of war, tens of students are attending classes without text books and uniforms. It all started with DPI distributing a hand book on RTE to all those private schools in which RTE free quota seats have been earmarked. As per the handbook, schools need not give uniforms or text books free of cost if the cost is not included in the annual fee. Now schools are using this clause to demand extra fees from the parents and students.
But the parents, and there are many of them, who are not ready to pay this extra fee, are now knocking on the doors of the BEO offices seeking relief. As a result, around 15 cases have already been filed against the schools, which are demanding extra money for text books and uniforms. But school managements deny that there has been any illegality in their demand.
Speaking to this newspaper, the head of one such institution informed that text book and uniform costs are not included in the annual fee amount. The state government supplies the text books while uniforms are supplied by the private firms. "We are just acting as the middle man. How can parents expect school managements to pay for uniforms and text books," he questioned with a touch of annoyance.
Mr. Nagasimha G Rao, convenor of the RTE task force, has a different view. He alleged that misinterpretation of the section 7 rule 1 by the DPI officials led to all the confusion. "As per the act, schools cannot demand extra money. In the handbook, everything has been written wrongly. Now private schools are using the government documents to justify their attempt at exploitation," he pointed out.