If Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category students in private schools are unable to access classes online during the lockdown due to lack of devices or the internet, schools must take steps to ensure
they can, the state government has submitted in the Delhi high court.

The submission was made by the Directorate of Education (DOE) on Friday evening in response to a plea filed by Justice For All, an NGO, which contended that several students belonging to the EWS and disadvantaged groups (DG) were unable to access classes online due to the lack of availability of these devices. The NGO contended that the decision of private, unaided schools to conduct online classes would affect over 50,000 students who cannot afford laptops, phones or high-speed internet.

All private and government schools are shut due to the lockdown, put in place to curb the spread of the Covid-19 and classes are being held online.

The state government's submission came on a notice by a high court bench of justices Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula, to the Centre, the Delhi government, municipal corporations and a few private unaided schools on May 8 seeking a response on the matter. Earlier this month, Hindustan Times had reported that EWS students enrolled in private schools are struggling to keep up with classes online.

Advocate Shikha Bagga, secretary at Justice For All, said Saturday: "The affidavit filed by the Delhi government in the high court clearly mentions that it is the duty of schools to ensure no child is deprived of education online due to lack of material required for attending online classes."

The affidavit submitted by the Delhi government mentions that as per Section 12(1)(c) of the Right of Children To Free And Compulsory Education Act, 2009, "it is the obligation of the private unaided schools to provide the aforesaid facilities to EWS/DG category students admitted in their schools."

Malkeet Singh, a contractual driver , has two children studying in top private schools in west Delhi, under the EWS category. While his younger daughter is managing her studies with the help of her teachers and friends, his 11-year-old son has been unable to attend any classes.

"We do not have a laptop or a smartphone so he has not been able to attend any online classes. I got to know through other parents that his tests are slated to begin Monday. We don't know what to do," he said.

His son's school is among the 15 which were served notices by the education department in the past one week after it was found out that EWS/DG students in these schools were not attending online classes regularly.

A senior DOE official, requesting anonymity, said, "The schools concerned were issued showcause notices as per the orders of the court."

On behalf of a few schools that received the showcause notice, advocate Kamal Gupta said, "While targeting private schools, the petition doesn't talk about how 17 lakh government school students would access online classes in the absence of gadgets. The petition was only filed so that the government could get funds from the Centre."

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