The High Court of Delhi has directed private unaided & Govt. Schools to provide gadget/equipment and internet package to students from economically weaker section (EWS) category for attending online classes.
The Court clarified that such gadget/digital equipment as well as internet package shall be provided free of cost to the students of EWS/DG category by private unaided Schools & Govt Schools.
A bench of Justice Manmohan & Justice Sanjeev Narula noted that the absence of such facilities prevents children from pursuing elementary education. So it is the the responsibility of the schools and obligation of the State to assist EWS students to overcome all constraints that deprive them of meaningful education.
“Intra-class discrimination, especially inter-se 75% fee paying students viz-a-viz 25% EWS/DG students‟ upsets the ‘level playing field’ and amounts to discrimination as well as creates a vertical division, digital divide or digital gap or “digital apartheid” in addition to segregation in a classroom which is violative of RTE Act, 2009 and Articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Constitution.”, the court said.
“We must also acknowledge that because of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, there could be a tendency amongst the underprivileged children to abandon education for work. This likely fallout needs to be immediately addressed. Otherwise, the gap, between the learning experiences of children from economically weaker sections as against the relatively privileged children, will widen. The fact that EWS students are today offered education through a mode that is based on this divide would further push them back. One of the many steps needed involves equipping such students with means to have a meaningful education. They need to have access to a reliable internet connection to join virtual classrooms along with technological devices. The precious right guaranteed by the Constitution of India and the RTE Act has to be replicated in the online environment. The private unaided schools have a responsibility of removing all barriers for EWS students that would hinder their access to education. The RTE Act also puts the onus on private schools to promote inclusion and equality.” the bench stated.
The HC said the committee shall also frame standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying the standard of the equipment & internet package to be supplied to the poor & disadvantaged students.