Kolhapur: Uncertainty hangs over the future of underprivileged students in Kolhapur as the Maharashtra government’s recent amendment to the Right to Education (RTE) Act sparks heated debate. The changes, exempting private schools within a 1km radius of government or aided schools from RTE quotas, raise concerns about access to quality English medium education for children from poor families.

While the government touts the move as reducing the burden on private institutions, critics warn of a widening educational divide. Parents in Kolhapur, already grappling with economic challenges, now fear their children might be denied a shot at quality education.

“My son dreams of becoming a doctor,” says Puja Bhosale, a houswife . “The government school lacks resources, and the private school near us offered him an RTE seat. Now, what will happen?”

Shinde’s sentiment resonates with many. Kolhapur, like other parts of Maharashtra, has a significant population living below the poverty line. For them, RTE admissions were a gateway to better opportunities.

“This amendment pushes students like mine back into the cycle of poverty,” rues Sunita Mengane a single mother. “Without proper English language skills, how will they compete in the future job market?”

Education experts echo these concerns. “This decision exacerbates inequality,” states Meenakshi Bhosale, a local rights activist. “The quality of government schools in Kolhapur varies greatly. Leaving students solely dependent on them is like setting them up for failure.”

However, some argue that the changes might indirectly benefit government schools. “The government might now be forced to focus on improving their own institutions to make them attractive alternatives,” says Prakash Rao, a retired teacher.

The amendment’s implementation, set for the 2024-25 academic year, faces legal challenges. Kolhapur parents are anxiously awaiting the outcome, their children’s futures hinging on a decision that could either brighten or dim their educational prospects.

Only time will tell how this story unfolds. But one thing is certain: the RTE amendment has ignited a crucial debate about educational equity in Kolhapur and Maharashtra, leaving many students and their families caught in the crossfire.

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