In a narrow bylane of Dakshinpuri in South Delhi, 500 students of Nanki Public School face an uncertain future. It is an unrecognised school and faces imminent closure when Right to Education Act provisions come into force from March 31.
The Act threatens to slap a heavy fine (Rs 10,000 per day) on all primary schools in the country which fail to get Government recognition by March, effectively leading to their shut down.
RC Jain, President of Delhi State Public School Management Association says, "This is a wrong step as across India, lakhs of schools which operate in urban villages and rural areas will have to be shut down, affecting the country's education system."
Most schools which applied for recognition found their application turned down by the municipal authorities as they did not meet the space requirements according to the city's Master Plan.
The schools argue that they operate from the poor neighbourhoods, slums or tin clusters where space is hard to come by.
Owner of Nanki Public School, SK Pandey says since Delhi has a space crunch, their demand is to reduce the space requirement from 800 to 300 square meters.
Space, however, is not the only criteria and many applications are rejected also if schools do not have trained teachers, fire safety, building fitness and health certificates.
Currently, there are 2235 unrecognised primary schools across the city, with over five lakh students on their rolls.
For many parents, however, these neighbourhood schools are the only option. These schools are affordable, close to home and easy to get admissions into.
The state education department is now taking up the issue with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi but so far no consensus has been reached even as time runs out.
According to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), they are obligated to adhere to the Master Plan and want the March deadline to be extended so that standards can be made.
While this may be an exercise to rein in rogue schools, without having the capacity to absorb these students, means that many young children might not even have access to primary education.