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Relief for schools minus play space

New Delhi, Dec. 5: The Centre has relaxed norms under the Right To Education Act to allow schools to run without playgrounds as long as they make alternative arrangements.

The HRD ministry said schools that did not have playgrounds — an “infrastructural requirement” under the RTE Act — could go in for collaborative arrangements with municipal bodies so that children could play outdoor games in places like public parks.

The ministry’s guidelines, issued about a month ago, suggested the intent behind including playground as an infrastructural requirement was to ensure that children had sufficient open space for sports and other physical activities during school hours.

But the ministry said it was “not necessary” that a school management provides this facility within the school premises. “It would be sufficient compliance if school managements make adequate arrangements, in adjoining playground/municipal park, etc., for children to play outdoor games and other physical activities.”

The relaxation came in the backdrop of representations from several states and schools that said they were finding it difficult to meet the playground requirement.

Under the RTE Act, every school must have an all-weather building consisting of one classroom for every teacher and an office-cum-store-cum-head teacher’s room. A school must also have separate toilets for boys and girls, a playground, library and boundary wall. The act, which came to effect on April 1, 2010, said schools had to meet these requirements within three years and the government could withdraw recognition of private schools that failed to meet the norms.

Rukmini Banerjee, director of ASER Centre, the research wing of the NGO Pratham that brings out a report every year on learning abilities of children at the primary level, said it was mostly schools in big cities that lacked playgrounds because of paucity of space.

The decision to allow collaborative arrangements, she added, was a “welcome” move. “But the government must co-ordinate with municipal bodies… to ensure they co-operated with schools interested in using their parks.”

Springdales School director Jyoti Bose was, however, sceptical. Parks under civic bodies are open to every citizen, she said. “I think it will be more easy for schools that do not have playgrounds to collaborate with schools that have playgrounds.”