The alleged rape of a three-and-a-half year old child in Orchids – The International School in Jalahalli, the third such shameful assault on a child this year, drew attention to the fact that the school had no affiliation to any board. The Department of Public Instruction then shockingly put out a list of 2,750 schools, which similarly did not h
ave any affiliation to any board. Most had reportedly gained a licence to run Kannada medium schools from the state government but were in fact claiming to be Central board schools offering education in English.
But the question that begs an answer is, how have they been allowed to operate this long? Although when the issue of the medium of instruction first cropped up, those in the know say otherwise. Schools are given licenses even when flouting the norms if they pay up to Rs 10 lakh, claims Mr D Shashi Kumar, secretary, Karnataka State Private Schools Management Federation.
“Chains that are granted license for one school, go on to establish eight or nine. And when the schools reach Class VIII, they bribe the board officials for affiliation,” he alleges. “Parents are so keen on putting their children in these so-called ‘international’ and ‘ICSE schools’ that they don’t question anything. As far as parents go, education is a fantasy they have in their heads, the actual content and quality of what is delivered is secondary,” he rues.
“It’s a known fact that money buys everything,” agree those closely associated with the education boards.
“The amount varies from area to area. According to the official procedure, once the No Objection Certificate (NoC) is obtained from the state government for getting affiliation, it is sent to the boards concerned. Later, inspections are done shoddily, reports are prepared to please the school owners and the board official who gets his commission,” they allege.
In the circumstances, activists have been up in arms against the Supreme Court’s recent order that schools no longer need to obtain a No-Objection Certificate from the state government as this only gives them more freedom to act and get board affiliation. “I have sent several mails to the CBSE Board, but there has been no response,” says Mr Nagasimha Rao, RTE Convener and member of the Child Rights Trust. “There is no complaint mechanism within the board and officials don’t even bother to inspect the schools anymore. The state is helpless in these cases,” he notes, ruing that schools can now cut back on infrastructure – a recent circular has even said that institutions no longer need to have playgrounds – and hike their fees indiscriminately.
“Finding admission in good schools is so hard that parents bear the injustice in silence. Fee hikes should be decided by the ICSE and CBSE boards after a meeting with parents, but that doesn’t happen. Every school is backed by an MLA or an MLC, so even the education minister is unable to take a stand.
There needs to be a proper understanding between the state and Centre, because schools are no longer accountable to anybody,” he stresses.