Writings on the Wall

01 Apr

Reported in “The Hindu” today, “To overcome the low level of awareness about the Right of  Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009-guaranteeing free and compulsory education  to all children between the age of 6 and 14-the Centre has decided to display its main provisions on the walls of all government school buildings.”

The report further says “Speaking at a function here to mark the completion of one year of implementation of the Act, Kiran Bhatty, National Coordinator, RTE, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights(NCPCR) said “the writings on the wall” will list the basic entitlements for children under the RTE Act and the proposal has been accepted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD)

And I was thinking to myself….if these are the measures that are going to be stressed upon, to implement the RTE, then they  surely will end up being the “writing on the wall” for the much lauded scheme. . At whom are these awareness measures directed? Are those unlettered kids roaming around on the streets and working in households and in dhabas and elsewhere supposed to come to the schools and “read” those provisions ?

You should definitely read all the provisions of this Act to get an idea of  how high sounding it is . You should read it too, to understand that it may actually result in far lesser children getting the benefit of education, if implemented in its totality.

Let’s take just one case of Nithari Village in Noida. This is a “basti”, where a very large number of migrant families have found small single rooms to stay in, while they labour hard to eke out a living. They come here because there is no employment in the villages and not enough or no land at all which could’ve helped them  survive,  by cultivation. For the original residents of Nithari, these migrants have become their source of income. Apart from the rooms they have built on their property and given out on rent, they run small shops for provisions, gas supply etc catering to the migrant population living here. And …they also run  schools in small premises , with a fee structure ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 250, depending on the class in which the children are enrolled.

There is only one Government Primary school in the neighbourhood and perhaps more than a dozen of these private schools run by the local residents within the basti. In spite out of which, lots and lots of children in this crowded basti remain unlettered. It is interesting to note that according to the Act, the State Government has to establish a primary school within a “walking distance” of one kilometer of the neighbourhood and where no school exists within such area or limits, the State Government shall make adequate arrangements , such as free transportation , residential facilities  and other facilities for providing elementary education in a school.

Clearly , the Government will have to spend much , much more than it has provided for , under the scheme in order that all the children  get the benefit of the RTE Act. Apparently there are already a  number of cases pending in the Supreme court , contesting various provisions of the scheme. I also remember Mayavati straightaway declaring that  it would be impossible to implement in Uttar Pradesh unless the Centre pitched in really , really generously.  Going  by our great tradition of scams in everything that we undertake, it is anybody’s guess where all that money will go if eventually the Central Government will release more funds.

Till such time, at least these local schools, (most of which are not recognized , but are merely being run as small business ventures, taking advantage of the aspirations that these hardworking parents have for their children), are at least providing some education to the kids of these migrant families.       Admittedly, the quality of education provided in these schools , leave a lot to be desired. Even the standard of the teachers is very poor. But the point is , there is no alternative that is being provided by the Government.

According to the Act, all such schools, including the ones that are run by Charitable Trusts to provide education totally free of cost,  are to get approval from the Educational Authorities . Approval is subject to all the norms laid down being fulfilled and that includes the area of the school premises , the qualifications of the teachers etc. If such approval is not obtained, the running of such schools would be against the law.

If the provisions of the RTE Act are strictly followed , all these small schools in places like Nithari  as well as the ones being run by many well intentioned NGOs will have to be closed down because many of them will not be fulfilling the prescribed norms.  Meanwhile the Government will continue with its “writngs on the wall”.

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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Reflections


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