Kamlesh with her daughter Gita. Photo by Pooja Parvati
RTE Act tasting success on coverage of girls at elementary education. http://bit.ly/1HPAILo #HaqBantaHai
Kamlesh is a 35-year-old domestic worker based in the capital city of India, New Delhi, who migrated from rural Madhya Pradesh after her marriage. She has four school-going children and her husband works as a daily-wager who does plumbing jobs, paint and other odd jobs. Kamlesh earns about Rs. 8000 a month ($120) working in four households.
Her eldest and only daughter Gita is fluent in English and reads the discarded newspapers that some households give Kamlesh to supplement her income (she sells it for recycling). Gita recently asked her mother whether she could apply for a scholarship programme for higher secondary level schooling. Gita is enrolled in a government school that provides free textbooks (that do not always arrive on time), uniforms and provides mid-day meal. Gita’s school benefits from the country’s Right to Education Act 2009 that ensures all government and aided schools provide free education for all children aged 6-14 years.
One of the key objectives of the Act has been to increase coverage of girls at elementary education level and bridge gender gaps in respect of enrolment, retention, completion and learning achievements. On that count, the Act has made some advancement.
As per the annual government database on education outcomes, District Information System for Education (DISE)1 , girls’ enrolment at upper primary level (Class V-VIII) has risen from 45.8% in 2005-06 to 48.7% in 2013-14. Between 2004-05 and 2013-14, the ratio of girls’ enrolment to boys’ has risen at the primary level (Class I-V) from 0.92 to 0.93 and 0.84 to 0.95 at the upper primary level. This could be due to improvement in provisions such as useable girls’ toilets from 32.9% in 2010 to 55.7% in 20142 .
The Act, operational since April 2010, completed five years of implementation on March 31, 2015. This legislation has helped bring down the expenses that families incurred towards basic education. Today, an Indian household, on an average, spends Rs.8 on education out of a total spend of Rs.1003 . A very conservative estimate, this amount does not cover the private tuition fees that parents have to pay or the ‘donations’ that most schools demand in the name of improvement. Moreover, challenges in implementation persist
There is no way we can realize the “end goal” of ensuring all children have a good quality and free basic education if the “means” to realize the end goal (the government scheme) is not adequately funded. Another layer of complexity is added when we realize that there are other types of schools that are well-funded and favoured. A subsequent piece will delve deeper into this aspect.
Closer home the fight to realize education for all children continues. Oxfam India along with other active NGOs and networks have launched a campaign #HaqBantaHai(i.e. it is my right) to demand quality education for all children.
Gita has recently applied for a government scholarship for higher secondary level schooling and is awaiting results. Even as Gita waits to realize her dreams, her three younger brothers are waging their battles for quality education. Their mother Kamlesh, meanwhile, remains hopeful that a better future is possible for her children.
3NSSO, 66th Round – Level and Pattern of Consumer Expenditure 2009-10, MOSPI, GOI December 2011
Echoing the motto and slogan from Alexandre Dumas’s 1844 classic novel, The Three Musketeers, ‘All for one and one for all’, which connotes everyone work together for a common goal, let’s all also work together to make education a basic right for all children in India. Sign the petition here and make your voice count.
Written by: Pooja Parvati, Research Manager, Oxfam India