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Matter of principals

Schools across the city are violating the principles of the Right to Education Act by denying re-admission to students who drop out because of extenuating circumstances

Shanti (name changed), a girl from Shakarpur wants to be a nurse when she grew up. She got admission in a school in Shakur Basti, Chandni Chowk. But due to her family’s poor financial condition, she had to leave her studies for a short while when she was seven. She started assisting her mother, who works as a household maid. After a year, when the family’s condition improved, they decided to re-admit Shanti to the school.

But fate had other plans for Shanti. At first, the school principal said that they cannot let Shanti take admission in the school as her mother works as a maid. Finally, at the family’s insistence, the school authorities let Shanti in. But things didn’t go as planned. Though Shanti was allowed to attend school, she was only permitted to eat the mid-day meal and leave, and not attend any classes.

Shanti is sadly not the only one. This has been the case with numerous other students, who had left school for some reason or the other, and are now planning to continue their studies once again.

Aryan Tyagi, six years old, had to leave school for a year, since he was diagnosed with a major illness. But when he and his family went to re-admit Aryan to Ravindra Public School in Prem Nagar, the authorities denied admission, citing no specific reason.

“When me and my daughter went for my grandson’s admission to the school, the principal denied admission and asked us to come after a few days. In this way, the authorities made her come once in every few days and denied admission every time”, says Usha Tyagi, Aryan’s grandmother. “When my daughter went there once again, they asked for her income certificate, since she belongs to the EWS (Economically Weaker Section) category. But, when she provided the certificate, they denied her admission, accusing her of forging the document, without any proof. My daughter Meenakshi has been mentally harassed, but the person who is suffering the most is Aryan. All we want is for him to become a well- educated man when he grows up”, adds a disappointed Tyagi.

“According to the Right to Education Act, a school can never deny admission to a student based on non-availability of certificates”, says advocate Ashok Aggarwal, who looks into all cases of violations of the Right To Education Act. “The largest number of cases that have come to me are cases where the school has denied admission due to non-availability of documents such as Aadhar card, ration card, etc., not only of the parents, but also the children”, says Aggarwal. “How can the school expect a little child to carry an Aadhar Card? This is nothing but harassment on the school’s part”, he adds.

Social Jurists, an organisation run by Aggarwal, in association with NGOs from across the city, have organised school FIR camps for the past year in different parts of Delhi. “We have received over 500 complaints of students who have been denied admission for various reasons, of which non-availability of documents accounts for more than 250 cases”, says Ramesh Dalal, a member of Social Jurists. “Most of these complaints have been registered by students who had left school for a long period of time at some point of time for various reasons, and now want to be readmitted,” says Dalal.

However, not all of these students had left school for a long period of time. Mohammad Firoz, a 15-year-old Class 9 student, had taken a 4-day holiday to visit his grandmother in Meerut. When he returned from the trip, he found out that he had been expelled and had to be re-admitted again. “The principal asked us to get all documents and some money for re-admitting him again, saying that all seats were reserved”, says Mohammed Amiruddin, his father. However, according to the RTE Act, one cannot deny admission to a student based on non-availability of seats.

Tamanna Parveen, a 16-year-old girl from Paschim Vihar, always wanted to become a renowned surgeon, and wanted to get their family out of financial misery. But in 2015, when she was studying in Class 8, she was diagnosed with a rare mental disease. She had to opt out of school, as she was undergoing treatment for the next two years. After she recovered from her illness, the first thing she wanted to do was pursue back her studies, her dream of becoming a surgeon still intact. But it was not to be. “When we went to admit her in the school, the authorities straight out refused, seeing her medical certificates. The principal clearly said that they cannot take a student who is mentally ill as it will affect the other students of the school”, says her father Mohd Hasmullah. “I want my daughter to achieve all that she wants in life, but this is a major hindrance for us”, says a dejected Hasmullah. However, according to the RTE Act, a school cannot deny a student admission on medical grounds.
Akram Khan has two daughters, Zeenat and Nargis. Both of them studied in Sangam Vihar Public School. But since the school did not have Classes 11 and 12, she, along with the other students, was shifted to a school in Tughlaqabad, which is almost 8 km away, after she completed Class 10. While she was travelling home from school one day, along with her friends, a group of boys tried to molest them. They somehow saved themselves.

“That incident shook us, and we stopped Zeenat from going to that school. Now, Nargis too has passed her Class 10 board examinations, but we don’t want to send her there, as it is a very unsafe area for girls. We want our children to study and be successful in life, but we can’t risk their safety”, says Khan. “We have also appealed to the school to shift the students to a nearby school or construct provisions to have Class 11-12”, says Khan.

Sarita, a member of the Social Jurists team, who conducted a school FIR Camp in Sangam Vihar, says that almost all of the complaints in the Sangam Vihar area have been regarding this issue only. According to Ashok Aggarwal, if a school does not have provisions for Classes 11 and 12, they have the right to ask the government for funds, and the government is bound to provide them with all help necessary. “According to the Right to Education Act, in such cases, the school can send their students to other schools, but only within a 3-km radius”, adds Aggarwal.

“We will continue to conduct school FIR camps in the future, and until we get justice for all these poor souls, we will not stop”, says Ashok Aggarwal. He has also written a letter to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to take action against these schools who are not complying with the RTE Act. “The Act was created to provide education for everyone, but these schools are denying this basic right of education to students with their actions”, adds an angry Aggarwal.

The schools, however, refused to comment despite repeated attempts.