A group of lawyers on behalf of poor parents filed a petition at the HC to safeguard the rights of the children under Right to Education Act (RTE).
The parents, supported by RTE Task Force, want the court to revoke its earlier interim order restraining the government from admitting students to LKG and UKG under the RTE quota.
Denial of pre-primary education?
In December, last year a vacation bench of the HC passed an order restraining the state government from sending children for admission under the RTE quota to LKG and UKG to schools that are members of the Associated Managements of Government Recognised English Medium Schools in Karnataka (KAMS).
"The Education department did not draw the attention of the HC to Section 12.1 C, Paragraph 2, of RTE Act, which clearly states that schools that are enrolling students under the Act should provide seats for children belonging to weaker section at pre-primary level also," said Nagasimha G. Rao, convenor, RTE Task Force.
The RTE Task Force regularly conducts advocacy on the Act across Karnataka.
"Moreover, a child suffers academically if he/she misses pre-primary level and starts attending school only from Class 1," he added.
KAMS has argued in the HC that Section 2(f) of the RTE Act 2009 stipulates elementary education, Class I to Class VIII, and not LKG or UKG, which is for children below 6 years.
Sarva Siksha Abhiyan publishes wrong facts
Moreover, parents also want Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), Karnataka to correct the mistakes in its booklet, leading to harassment of underprivileged kids.
The controversial clause in the information booklet published by the SSA) states that it is not mandatory for private schools to provide free books, uniforms and other facilities to 'quota' children, if schools have never practiced such entitlements previously.
Misuse of RTE Act
Taking advantage of the SSA's additional clause, schools in Bengaluru demanded fees from parents of around 40,000 kids admitted under the RTE act last year, amount ranging from Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000.
Whereas the Karnataka RTE Act, Rule 7.2, clearly mentions that schools shall not discriminate 'quota' children in any manner in respect of entitlements and facilities such as textbooks, uniforms, library and ICT facilities, co-curricular programmes and sports.
Moreover, the state government is paying private schools a sum of Rs 11,600 per 'quota' student per year to incur the expenses.
"The SSA booklet contains wrong information. Because of the additional clause added in the booklet, private schools are asking fees from 'quota' children. We have received hundreds of complaints from poor parents in this regard," said Rao.
Future of kids at stake
Suresh, an auto driver, who filed the petition at the HC on Wednesday said, "My child's future is in jeopardy. My daughter is studying in LKG in a private school under the RTE Act. Now, I have to discontinue her studies as the school won't allow her to study in UKG. I also can't afford the school fees."
According to the RTE Act, which came into force on April 1, 2010, all schools should set aside 25% of the seats for the children from the neighbourhood --- a euphemism for kids from underprivileged sections of society.
Because of various controversies, mostly stiff opposition by the private school lobby, the RTE Act was finally implemented in the state in 2011.
"The private school lobby in Karnataka is very strong. They want to dilute the Act to avoid giving admission to children under 25% quota. Most of the states in country, including Delhi, are witnessing a successful run of the RTE Act," said Rao.
"Last year, more than one lakh children were admitted in schools across the state under the Act. It is a huge success story for the government. We wonder why the state government does not want to continue with its good work. Preventing admission of children in LKG and UKG under the Act is a bad sign. Rumours are rife that the RTE Act would be scrapped in the state," he added.