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SC asks Delhi govt to come with plan for online education of EWS students during pandemic

New Delhi [India], October 8 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Delhi government to come up with a plan to help children of Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category and disadvantaged group during the pandemic for their online classes.

The SC directed that the Centre and Delhi should work together to find a solution to ensure that education is not denied due to lack of resources.

A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna said it is necessary for the Delhi government to come up with a plan to uphold the objective of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the Centre to also coordinate with the state government and share concurrent responsibilities for the purposes of funding for resources.

The Bench said the digital divide produced stark consequences as schools adopted the digital medium during the pandemic and the right to education was virtually denied to children belonging to EWS children and the disadvantaged groups as they could not afford adequate computer-based equipment and internet for online classes.

“Digital divide produced stark consequences during the pandemic as the right to education was virtually denied to children belonging to EWS children as they could not afford computers for online classes,” the Bench said while suggesting that government must provide the facilities.

It said the need to provide adequate computer-based equipment together with internet access for online learning by EWS and disadvantaged groups of children is of “utmost importance”.

“The needs of young children who are future of the country cannot be ignored… access to online education to EWS and disadvantaged group of children cannot be denied,” the apex court said.

The Delhi High Court last year had directed private unaided schools and government schools like ‘Kendriya Vidyalayas’ to supply gadgets and internet package to students from EWS and disadvantaged groups of children to facilitate online learning.

The High Court had directed that cost of gadgets and internet package are not a part of tuition fee and have to be provided free of cost to these students by the schools, subject to the right of private unaided schools to claim reimbursement from the state in accordance with the provision of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

The Bench today was hearing a plea of Action Committee Unaided Recognized Private Schools which said it is difficult for schools to comply with the High Court’s direction because it has put the burden on them financially.

The Action Committee said the government has to reimburse for the computer and internet access for online classes and they need funding for the same.

The top court issued a notice in the matter and tagged it along with the pending appeals filed by the Central government and the Delhi government against the order of the Delhi High Court.

Justice Nagarathna said that state governments have to come forward and finance online classes else children will drop out of school.

“In a pandemic situation, this has to be taken seriously,” the Bench added.

“Look at the tribal and rural areas, there is a large drop out of children from the schools,” Justice Nagarathna said.

Hearing the plea, Justice Chandrachud asked, “What is the Delhi government doing? Mr Shyam Divan (appearing for the petitioner) is saying that burden is falling on private schools and just because parents are not EWS does not mean they can pay the fees.”The Bench even suggested that the government can tap into the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds of the corporates for this.

Justice Chandrachud further said, “I have seen this at personal quarters, it’s heart-wrenching. We are merging EWS with mainstream and on the other hand, there is such disparity. The mother is a maid and the father is a driver where will they get the laptop from? you have to upload homework on the laptop.”The Bench took into note that the High Court had directed that private unaided and government schools must under the RTE Act 2009 supply the gadgets and equipment and internet package to EWS and disadvantaged groups free of cost subject to being reimbursed by the State.

It then asked the top court’s Registry to seek Chief Justice of India’s permission so that all these appeals can be listed at an early date before an appropriate Bench so that a workable solution can be carved out for providing education to younger citizens of India. (ANI)

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