CHENNAI: Although the number of admissions through RTE for this academic year has almost doubled since the last, exemptions for minority institutions and the very criteria for being a ‘minority’ are giving schools an escape route.
Under the Supreme Court ruling in May 2014, minority institutions are not obliged to reserve 25 per cent seats for economically weaker students; the schools are supposed to have a certificate declaring them as a minority institution in order to avail the exemption. RTE awareness volunteers have found that some schools use the easy excuse of being a minority and deny admissions.
Chennai has a list of 40 schools that officially have minority status, and around 30 others have applied for it, says A Subramanian, Inspector for Matriculation Schools.
“But the number who claim minority status is far more,” says Kota Ashwim Kumar, a project coordinator from the NGO Bhumi, which has been actively working for RTE awareness and implementation. “One school in Tondiarpet that we approached told us not to bother with the RTE quota in his school as they were definitely going to get the minority status,” he says.
In States such as Karnataka, the Directorate of School Education has put up the list of recognised minority schools online, so that the public can easily check if the school’s claim is validated. But in Tamil Nadu, according to an official from the Directorate of Matriculation Schools, a list has been made and is still being updated. The idea of ‘minority’ itself had undergone dilution over the years.
According to Subramanian, the minority tag used to be decided based on the population of the area and the percentage of students who fell under the official minority groups. “But after a Government order in 2008, the law was amended. Now, if the management of the school belongs to a minority community, it gets the minority status,” he says.
“The Tamil Nadu government is being strict about granting minority status and has rejected many applications, but in some cases, the rejected applicant has taken the case to the Central government in order to fight for the status.”
With many schools making the application that also leaves the question of what will happen to the students who get admitted through RTE in a school that later gets minority status.
Subramanian responds that the department will protect the admission status of these children. “The exemption is not compulsory and we will reimburse minority schools that have given admission under the RTE,” he says.