Shivani Chaturvedi (Chennai)
In end-february, tamil nadu’s Federation of Private School Associations (FePSA) issued a statement warning that its member schools will not admit free-of-charge children as mandated by the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, for the academic year 2023-24, unless the DMK-run state government clears its dues of the previous two years.
Under the RTE Act, 2009 (s.12 (1) (c)), poor children residing in the neighbourhood of private schools have to be admitted with government obliged to partially pay for these children’s superior private school education.
“Private schools are struggling to run due to the backlog of government not having paid its dues for two years. The state government has increased electricity charges, property tax, deposit and inspection fee for schools. But our dues remain unpaid. Therefore, the government should give time for schools to pay taxes and electricity bills,” says M. Arumugam, director of FePSA.
Tamil Nadu’s nearly 35,000 private independent and budget private schools have enrolled over 74,000 s.12 (1)(c) children from economically underprivileged sections in the academic year 2022-23. Moreover in the past year, the School Education Department had lowered the RTE reimbursement fees pushing private schools into a deeper financial crisis. The annual per-child reimbursement for RTE students for LKG-class V has been revised to Rs.12,076 (from Rs.12,458). For classes VI, VII and VIII, the revised amount is Rs.15,711 (from Rs.17,077, Rs.17,106 and Rs.17,027 respectively).
“Economically poor and underprivileged parents are eager to get their wards admitted into private schools under the RTE Act. Private schools cannot deny admission to them. If students don’t get admission in private schools, they will naturally go to government schools. That seems to be the government’s intent,” says S. Arumainathan, president of the Tamil Nadu Parents Welfare Association.
Chennai-based educationist Dr. Somasundaram concurs: “The government should reimburse the dues without delay. Also, it should monitor if any private school is pressuring parents to pay fees for students admitted under s.12 (1) (c). With reimbursement delayed, there are instances where parents have been asked to settle government dues,” says Somasundaram.
Although better than most government schools, the financial condition of some of the state’s private schools is bad and worsening because the state government hasn’t reimbursed fees of RTE children for two years.
This despite the RTE Act Rules framed by the state government clearly stating that 50 percent of poor children’s fees amount is payable to private schools as soon as a child is admitted under s.12 (1) (c). The remainder 50 percent is to be paid during the academic year, generally by end-September.
The ruling DMK government which is busy stitching alliances for General Election 2024, seems unaware of this obligation.