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25% EWS Quota battles in Delhi

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The Supreme Court has set aside the Delhi High Court order of May 26 in which the HC had asked the state to ensure that the backlog of unfilled seats in private schools, both on private and government lands, is filled-up in the next five years in a phased manner; i.e., 20% of the vacancies each year, in addition to the mandated annual 25% intake.

In its order of Sep 1 the Apex Court said: “We are  unable to appreciate  how   clause   4 of   the   impugned   order   dated   26.05.2022   can   be worked   out     even   if   the   schools   are     at   default for the earlier period of years as the same cannot be compensated in this manner by an interim order. Similarly,   the   issued   which   has   been examined by the Court is whether the 25% of seats in EWS category is being filled up on the basis of the   declared   sanctioned   strength   or   actual admissions and we do believe that this cannot form subject matter of an interim order.

We   are   thus   of   the     view   that   the   final call will have to be taken in the main matter and it   cannot   be   a   subject   matter   of   the   nature   of interim relief  as granted. The result of the aforesaid is we set aside the   impugned   order   qua   directions   contained   in paragraphs   4   and   5…”

So, the key question whether the 25% of seats in EWS category is being filled up on the basis of the   declared   sanctioned strength or actual admissions is still to be decided by the Delhi HC.  So how exactly the matter reached to this stage.

Trules for implementation of Section 12(1)(c) and Section 3(2) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE) were notified in Delhi in  January 2011 and clubbed with Delhi School Education Rules (DSEAR), 1973. Following this, private schools recognized under DSEAR, 1973 (2058, which includes 543 primary schools under MCD) are obliged to admit 25% EWS students without charging any fee. The government reimburses their fee to schools. At the same time, those unaided private schools (around 400) which are on government allotted land were already required to provide freeship of 20% before this notification, now admit 5% more under EWS and are reimbursed for this much percentage only. Importantly, the 20% freeship extends to entire school span K-12 of a child admitted as against RTE Act where this freeship is provided upto class 8 only.

After the Delhi government completely shifted the admission process online for filling up nursery and class 1 through draw of lots and allocated students to private schools under Economically Weaker Section (EWS), Disadvantaged Group (DG) and Children with Special Needs (CWSN) Section 12(1)(c) and Section 3(2) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE)  in 2017-18, a lot of some 2056 schools on private land continued to admit students offline against vacancies as per the modules provided to them.

After the outbreak of Covid19 pandemic, nursery admissions for 2020-21 didn’t take place at all including the 25% under EWS category. As per DoE data, in all 21699 admissions took place in 2021-22 against 33055 results from the draw of lots actually done for approx 54000 seats. So, a petition by Justice for All, an NGO had drawn the court’s attention to the huge gap of more than 20,000 vacancies and pleaded for carrying vacancies forward in view of the loss of learning and a large number of children from marginalized communities losing schooling opportunity due to school closures. The petitioners had also challenged an earlier order regarding Dec 31 as the deadline for EWS admissions.

It is also important to note that  after the Delhi government completely shifted the admission process online for filling up nursery and class 1 through draw of lots and allocated students to private schools under Economically Weaker Section (EWS), Disadvantaged Group (DG) and Children with Special Needs (CWSN) Section 12(1)(c) and Section 3(2) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE)  in 2017-18, a lot of some 2056 schools on private land continued to admit students offline against vacancies.

As against the 394 schools that stand on concessional land by the government, other private schools on private land allege they were getting disproportionate number of children from the lottery results pool and therefore, continued to admit EWS children against vacancies as the official module of these admissions allowed them so.

Now, in a circular dated August 5 pertaining to reimbursement of Per Child Expenditure (PCE), the directorate has asked  private schools to segregate admissions (children admitted) made by them offline from 2018, ie, for past four years, and that these may not be processed for payment. This order has come as a shock to private schools and agitated them in the capital city. Through a strong rejoinder, these schools have asked the directorate to amend this order and keep a status quo till 2021 -22 academic year as an estimated more than two lakh admissions were done all these years offline and is in full knowledge of the officials and denying them freeship will have adverse impact both for schools as well as these students.

The representatives of associations of these schools have raised the matter before the director of education, Himanshu Gupta and explained to him the repercussions of excluding offline admitted students. “The DoE’s own modules allowed offline admissions and in a RTI reply that we obtained from the directorate itself, it is clearly stated that no prior official approval was needed and schools can admit students on their own if vacancies existed after absorbing government allotted seats,” says Dr Chandrakant Singh, National General Secretary,  Private Land Schools Trust (PLST), and chairman of Ideal Radiant Public School, Uttam Nagar, Delhi.Singh adds that in case directorate fails to change its position and pushes with denying reimbursements, in the interest of more than two lakh students, we’re even prepared to fight it out in the court.

So, as the High Court takes the call, all eyes will be how the court addresses the grey areas of how this 25% will be determined—on class strength at the entry level or in proportion to general enrolment? And will it favour carrying forward the vacancies?

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