| The district education office in Jamshedpur
Free education remains a distant dream for hundreds of underprivileged children in East Singhbhum, with most private schools nonchalant towards an RTE Act provision that makes reservation of 25 per cent seats for needy students mandatory.
The district education office was expected to send a complete report to the state HRD department on Wednesday, detailing the status of all the 221 cradles that had been directed to make room for disadvantaged children. But, it was compelled to send an unfinished account because only 32 schools submitted their response and most among them claimed that they had found no suitable pupil to enrol in the reserved category.
The response was so poor that we did not know what to do. But, since we had a deadline yesterday, we sent whatever was available. We will wait for a few days for the other private schools to submit their report and then send a fresh account to the HRD department. If they do not send status details, we will have to launch another motivation campaign for students and schools like last year, said Sushil Kumar, district superintendent of education, East Singhbhum.
The status report on reserved seats was sought from schools primarily to disburse funds for uniforms and study materials, besides other allied facilities. A complete report would have made the process swift. The government would have sanctioned funds without delay and underprivileged students would have largely benefited, Kumar said.
Sources said some private cradles were denying admissions to deprived students for not being able to furnish necessary document proof such as a BPL card or a caste certificate.
Lack of awareness is at the root of the problem. Most schools have admitted some underprivileged children, but some dont have a single student from below the poverty line because parents have not approached these cradles. This system will take some time to work, said Prakash Kumar, additional district programme officer who is also a member of the RTE cell.
A section of private schools, which have less than 25 per cent poor students, found quick refuge in this lack of awareness among parents. Others harped on documentation dilemma.
We do want to enrol disadvantaged students from the feeder area (within 3km), but have not found one yet. A few children and their parents had approached us, but without mandatory documents. So, we could not help them, said Swarna Mishra, principal of Dayanand Public School.
Principal of Kerala Public School in Kadma Sharad Chandra claimed partial success, but cited age anomaly as one of the hurdles.
We have filled up around 5 per cent seats in the reserved category. The target seems distant because government guidelines prod an admission process without age bar. But, how can we admit poor children in the age group of 9-11 in lower kindergarten, where other students are three years old. We are admitting only those who are five or below, he said.
Principal of Rajendra Vidyalaya B.B. Sahay added that they were also confused on the reimbursement process by the government.