16,000 schools in Maharashtra may not Reopen due to RTE Fee Reimbursement Delay

RTE continues to wreak havoc with non-minority private schools across the nation. One of the many different issues created by RTE for private schools is the struggle to get on-time and commensurate reimbursement from State Governments for the fees of 25% students admitted under free RTE quota. 16000 private Hindu run schools in Maharashtra are planning not to reopen schools after summer vacation ends on 15 June, in order to protest against this delay in reimbursement of fees of students admitted under the Right To Education (RTE) act.

According to this report in Mid-Day newspaper –

“Sixteen thousand private schools across Maharashtra will not reopen on June 15, to protest against the government’s delay in reimbursement of fees of students admitted under the Right To Education (RTE) act. Managements of private unaided schools are complaining that the delay in reimbursement of fees is resulting in financial issues making it difficult for them to run schools. They have to compromise on other activities being offered due to the financial deficit. The managements have not yet decided when they will reopen the schools, of which 800 are in Mumbai.

The Independent English Schools’ Association (IESA) has taken the decision to not reopen schools to pressurise the government to release the funds (for fees) which have been delayed for more than three years now. Under the RTE act, 25% seats from all private, unaided schools are reserved for children from underprivileged socio-economic background. The government reimburses fees of these students. Private schools have been complaining about delay in reimbursements for couple of years now.

The association has around 16,000 schools across Maharashtra as members, of them around 800 are from Mumbai. Anil Garg, Vice President of Private Unaided Budget Schools, which is part of IESA said, “We are tired of discussing the issue with the government. They always give assurances. They are not issuing funds for RTE without which it is becoming a burden on managements leading to increase in fees of remaining 75% students.”

Saket Tiwari, joint secretary of Saket Gyanpeeth which runs Saket Vidya Mandir, said, “These days private schools have special unique points on which they base their services. It is no longer just education, parents also want additional extra curricular activities for holistic development of their children. But this delay in reimbursement is pinching the pockets of managements forcing them to think about shutting down some facilities.

He further said, “Interactive learning, audiovisual class rooms, use of technology and additional activities such as talent competitions, professional level sports, and art training etc. form unique points of private schools. But with the financial crunch, when even matching teachers’ salaries is becoming difficult, managements have no option but to compromise on these facilities. This also means facing the wrath of parents of those 75% who are willing to pay for additional services.”

Bharat Malik, Vice President of Federation of Unaided Private Schools’ Association of Maharashtra said, “The education minister has quoted how they spend around Rs 30,000 per student in their schools. But they are not even giving us the decided Rs 17,000 per student. How so do they expect us to run schools? We are small organisations or trusts running schools without any support from government. A government school’s teacher earns well and his or her performance is not verified. In our schools, teachers’ performances are verified time and again. We need to pay them well to retain good teachers to maintain quality.

And its not just IESA in Maharashtra which is saying this – the National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA), an alliance of  budget private schools (BPS) from across the country (over 36,400 schools from 20 states catering to ~9.35 million children) is also spreading awareness on the destructive impact Sonia Gandhi’s NAC brainchild RTE has has had on the school system of this country.

The writing is on the wall – RTE is pushing unaided private schools across the country to the brink…if we don’t act soon by repealing or drastically reforming RTE, education in this country could be permanently damaged for a generation or two. The fact that RTE applies only to private schools managed by Hindus, while completely exempting minority (Christian, Muslim etc) run schools from its draconian provisions is another odious, sectarian aspect of this ill-conceived law. Will the much-awaited NEP (New Education Policy) address this bad law? Lets wait and watch.