– Reshma Ravishanker
In 26 out of 360 private schools surveyed in Karnataka for the implementation of s. 12 (1) (c) of the Right to Education Act (RTE), Act 2009, RTE quota students said that they were segregated into groups of only RTE students for some academic activities. Students reported that they faced discrimination while conducting science experiments and attending computer lab sessions.
The report Evaluation of Infrastructure Facilities and Eligibility Conditions of Private Schools as per the RTE Act 2009, Karnataka was submitted to the state government by the Karnataka Evaluation Authority and Hyderabad Karnataka Centre for Advanced Learning, Kalaburagi in March. Data for the survey was gathered by interacting with 5,453 students, 63 educational officers and 745 parents across 360 schools in Karnataka.
The report highlights that 606 children of 5,134 students interviewed said that they were allowed to attend practical science laboratory classes in batches/groups of only RTE quota students. Under s. 12 (1) (c) of the RTE, Act 2009, private schools are obliged to reserve 25 percent capacity in classes I-VIII for poor children in their neighbourhood.
Comments Prof. A.S. Seetharamu, principal investigator of the study: “If we were to ask students whether they faced discrimination, they would deny it. Our questions were framed to elicit specific details from children. It is only adults who observe the scenario with care know the subtle discrimination that takes place,” he said.
Seetharamu, former professor of education at ISEC, Bengaluru, says that any instances of grouping of RTE quota students for academic activities or denial to participate in sports and cultural events must be immediately addressed.
In a small minority of schools, RTE students were discriminated against even during the library sessions. Out of the 81.6 percent schools which have a Reading Room, 94.4 percent schools maintain the same timing for all students. In the remainder, RTE students were given access to the reading room at a different hour.
“There is hidden, subtle discrimination against RTE children in a small minority of schools, in several areas of school life, exceptions being sports or games, literary or cultural activities and monitor system. Instances of discrimination are: separate section or seating arrangements (5.6 percent), computer education in separate groups (7.2 percent), separate library timings (8.05 percent), separate timings at reading room (9.2 percent), separate toilets (16.7 percent) and separate drinking water facility (17.8 percent),” says the report.
Denying the charge that private schools discriminate against RTE quota students, D. Shashikumar, general secretary of the Associated Managements of English Medium Schools in Karnataka says: “These could be instances where some slow learners were put in groups or asked to stay back in classes while the others are in the library. If there have been specific incidents, we will support the child and ensure lawful action.”
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