Sheila steps in: Won’t let schools shut down, may extend deadline

Wednesday

As more than 2,200 schools facing closure drew up a protest calendar for the next two months to oppose the move, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday clarified that schools would not be shut down even if they do not meet the requirements of the Right To Education Act.

Speaking at the Idea Exchange programme of The Indian Express, Dikshit said her government "will consider giving them (schools) more time if they want".

She said she had been told about the problem only recently and the schools would be given a year or two to meet RTE standards. She said even if these schools did not have the best facilities, "at least students are studying somewhere".

"The education of a child is more important than rules," Dikshit said in response to a question.

The RTE Act lays down certain parameters for all schools. The Act also specifies a time limit of three years "from the time of the implementation of the Act" for school managements to upgrade facilities. That time limit ends on March 31.

An umbrella body called the Delhi State Private Schools Association (DSPSA) recently said that "some of the provisions of the RTE are against the weaker section of society". They were seeking extension of the time limit, stating that they neither have more subsidised land for expansion of the school premises nor the resources since these schools are run in slums and smaller localities and charge a nominal fee from students.

According to the section 18(5) of the RTE Act, after March 31, 2013, schools that are not recognised will be liable for a one-time penalty of Rs 1 lakh and a fine of Rs 10,000 per day.

Many schools may not be regularised because they do not meet land norm requirements to be recognised as primary schools. According to DSPSA, nearly 4.75 lakh students will be affected if these schools are shut down.

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