Nov 22, 2014

RTE Forum demands national level road-map to ensure urgent compliance

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According to the government data, only 1 million children are out of school but Right to Education (RTE) forum says it’s 8 million! Government has failed to deliver on its promise, made to ensure equitable, quality education to every young child of India by missing the three year deadline to comply with the RTE norms, said Ambarish Rai, the National Convenor of the RTE Forum in the national stocktaking convention on the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act held here at Constitution Club on Wednesday.

The sheer fact that only 8 per cent schools are RTE compliant in terms of infrastructure and teacher availability is reflective of the reality of poor performance on the ground. We want the government to come up with a roadmap on an urgent basis for the implementation of Act, he added.

The convention was organised by the RTE Forum  and was attended by educationists, teachers’ unions, activists, civil society organisations and media from across the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Professor Yashpal, said, “We need to have an inclusive system of education through an interactive approach where teachers and children learn together in order to ensure the growth and development of the country. A campaign for children is the need of the hour than focussing on corruption”, he added.

Professor Krishna Kumar expressed his concern over the wave of privatization and felt that it was extremely dangerous for millions of children from the marginalised sections of society. He recommended a state wise review of progress of the RTE implementation undertaken with a sense of urgency that the issue deserves.

The Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Professor Shanta Sinha said we must have faith in the government school system. She felt that strengthening of the national public system of education is extremely important. Private schools does not provide quality education, she added.

The convention also saw the launch of a stock-taking report by the RTE Forum. The report is based on primary data, collected from over 2000 schools in 17 States, and throws light on the status of implementation  of  RTE on the ground. It is complemented by secondary information from government sources, policy analysis, academic and civil society research, and media coverage. Based on the findings, the report draws some broad recommendations for action. 

Highlighting the critical gaps in the RTE implementation, Anjela Taneja, one of the founders of the RTE Forum said realities of the compliance of this act were grim. She acknowledged that additional government resources have been allotted, more teacher posts and infrastructure was sanctioned along with administrative changes. But these efforts were sporadic and lacking the required quality and rigour.

Considering child-mapping a major access issue, the report finds that, only 39.6 per cent of schools surveyed maintained a record/register of child-mapping. In addition, the report argues that greater attention needs to be provided for mapping of children belonging to migrant, nomadic children in conflict affected areas and among children with special abilities, she added. 

The report also highlights gaps in other crucial indicators. According to the study, 5  per cent of schools in the country still run in single-classrooms. At present nearly 40 per cent schools on an average do not have play grounds.
The study shows a low figure of 77.8 per cent with regard to availability of safe drinking water. There is a lot to be done to improve the scenario in many states including Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh where only a smaller percentage of schools have separate toilets for girls.

With regard to RTE norms for Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR), the study found that 56.6 per cent schools in the primary and upper primary schools follow the respective RTE norms of 1:30 and 1:35 respectively. States like Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh need to take more efforts to implement PTR norms in the school as around half of the schools in these states are not following the PTR norms.

The report also highlighted concerns regarding formation of School Management Committees (SMCs). Although SMCs have been constituted in 79% of the schools there are various concerns regarding their constitution and functioning.
The study also raises concerns regarding various forms of overt discrimination against girl children, Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and CwSN. The most predominant kind of discrimination, which is reported in the present study, was not being allowed to sit on benches and not being given leadership roles in classrooms.

The presentation of the main findings from the report was followed by discussions on a range of issues including inclusion, community participation, and teacher’s role in the RTE, systemic readiness and challenges on the ground.  Two thirds of India’s children studies in schools that fail to adhere to the minimum RTE norms while 12 lakh teacher posts remain to be filled. 5 lakh in-service teachers require training and 5% habitations still lack a school.  The government has failed to commit the funds it has itself calculated as necessary for the Act’s implementation and also ensure that the funds allotted are spent. In the face of this situation, comprehensive grievance redress systems need to be put in place. 

The RTE Forum, however, believes that every crisis offers an opportunity. Based on the discussions at the convention, the forum has decided to put forward few key demands like demanding a road map for RTE, an enhancement of the budget for elementary education to 6 per cent of the GDP in order to deliver on the commitments made and immediately revamp  teacher training institutes to ensure availability of adequate numbers of trained, qualified and professional teachers.    

These issues were presented to the Parliamentarians during the concluding session of the convention. A memorandum, highlighting these issues, will also be presented to the Prime Minister’s Office on April 4.

Author: Manisha Sharma

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