Govt should provide EWS students devices to attend online classes: Schools to HC

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Four private schools in the national Capital have told the Delhi High Court that it is the responsibility of the central and the state governments to provide students from the economically weaker section (EWS) with logistics to help them attend online classes during the Covid-19 lockdown.

In separate affidavits filed in the Delhi High Court, these four private schools said that they are not obliged to provide free devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets and Internet facilities to students belonging to the EWS and disadvantaged groups.

The submissions were made before a bench of justices Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula while they were hearing a plea filed by Justice For All, an NGO working in the education sector, which had contended that several students belonging to the EWS and disadvantaged groups (DG) were unable to access classes online due to the lack of the aforementioned devices. The court had, on May 8, issued notices to the Centre, the Delhi government, municipal corporations and 10 private unaided schools seeking a response on a plea.

Advocate Khagesh Jha, the president of Justice for All and counsel for the petitioner, said, “The court, on Wednesday, directed the central government, state government and remaining private schools to file their responses within two weeks.”

A detailed order of the hearing on Wednesday is yet to be uploaded on the Delhi High Court’s website. The matter will be heard next on July 15.

A senior DoE official said that they are yet to receive responses of show-cause notices the government had issued on May 8 to 15 schools on this matter. This was following complaints from students that they were not getting any logistical assistance from schools to attend online classes, which had been started after the schools had to close down due to the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. In Delhi, the schools have been shut since March 16, but both government and private schools have continued holding classes online.

Reacting to the affidavits filed by these four schools, a senior official in the directorate of education said, “We have already informed the court that it is the responsibility of private schools to provide all facilities to EWS/DG students under the Right to Education Act. We will comment only after the court pronounces an order on the matter. It’s still sub-judice.”

Under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 25% seats are reserved for children from the EWS and DG category at the entry-level classes —Nursery, KG and Class 1—in all private schools. The students are entitled to free education, books and uniforms till Class 8 as per the Act.