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No Takers for RTE Quota: Why the Act Has Failed in Karnataka

A recent amendment to the Act in K’taka restricts admissions in private schools, if there is a government one around

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“Knowing Kannada and English are different. English has a lot of scope, which is not there for Kannada; for Kannada, prospects are lower. Everyone demands English and that’s the problem.”
Parent

A recent amendment to Article 12(1)C of the RTE Act in Karnataka has made getting admission, a tricky process already, even harder.

In what activists are calling a knee-jerk attempt by the state government to boost admissions in government schools, deserving students will not be able to avail of the RTE quota if there is a government school in the area.

However, Kannada-medium government schools are not the first choice for parents who want their children to have a quality education. Deprived of even the option to get a seat combined with the desperation for an English-medium education is forcing parents to take informal loans at high rates of interest to bear the financial burden.

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Jhansi, an activist working with 30 slums in Bangalore said rampant corruption, extortion under various and open discrimination were discouraging even those who had successfully managed to get seats.

“I work in places filled with pourakarmikas, domestic workers, flower sellers, most of the families have alcoholics as fathers so it is the mother who ends up suffering. There are 3-4 kids in each family. In the first year, when one child was enrolled, there was no trouble. From the second year onwards, the school has been extracting the fees money from the parents indifferent ways like computer classes, extra tuitions, uniforms and books. In this way, they are able to make parents pay up to Rs 15,000-20,000, as much as the school fees is. Parents have started doubting why they even enrolled the kids in these schools. ”
Jhansi to The Quint

Up till this year, a parent had three kids enrolled under the RTE quota. Two of them had to be discharged this year, because teachers insisted the kids were not ‘proper’.

“We have done our bit. We send them to school everyday, in clean uniforms, neatly. You can check the attendance, they would not have missed a day. After teaching them for so many years (from Class 1), how can they suddenly say they are not studying? Two of my kids’ lives are ruined. Now I have to send them to a government school,” she rued.

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Why Not Government Schools?

Jhansi called the new amendment a farce and said that students would continue to drop out of government schools, if there was no scope of learning English, which would lead to a good job.

“Like people said, knowing English is key. If you don’t know English, there is no future, there is no job. Even if students study in government schools till class 10, for first PU they need to know English. This is why many kids drop out. I know a girl who passed class 10 with first class. She went to college only for one week, she quit saying she was unable to follow anything. Now, she is working at a clothes shop where she is earning Rs 4,000 per month,” she said.

Govt Has Started English-Medium Schools

According to Lakshmi Prasanna, member of the RTE task force in Karnataka, the government converting certain government to English-medium schools is another misguided attempt by the Karnataka government to strengthen public education.

“They converted some government schools to English medium so that is another explanation they are giving to improve government schools. They are telling some 1,000 schools across the state. In one constituency, there are 5-6 schools have been changed to English-medium schools but the government said that only one section will be made English-medium which will have 30 seats only,” he said.

Prasanna argued that improving government schools by imparting English-medium education had nothing to do with the amendment to Article 12(1)C of the RTE Act.

“Our point is why did they weaken section 12(1)c, the two are not connected. In my experience, those parents who are going for the 25 percent seats are definitely not going to enrol their kids in government schools in the future. If you are not giving this opportunity, they will pay,” he said.

Both parents and activists believe that the real way to strengthen education was to fortify government schools and not the place the burden on the private sector.

“I feel that if all the government schools are made on par with private schools, if English is considered so important, then let them start classes in English from the beginning. This is what the government should do.”
Jhansi

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