Right To Education: more needs to be done

Business Standard
Saturday, April 5, 2014 | 06:00 AM IST

On April 1, the Right to Free and Compulsory Education of Children (RTE) will turn four. The landmark law enacted by the United Progressive Alliance in 2009 was yet another entitlement to deliver free compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14. Till date, no state has met the basic RTE norms of trained teachers, infrastructure requirements or pupil-teacher ratio. The deadline lapsed in March 2013. Eight million children are still out of school.

"The Right to Education Act's implementation has remained grossly underfunded. Compared with the Twelfth Plan's estimates, budgetary allocations for the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, the vehicle for implementing the RTE, for 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 saw shortfalls of Rs 12,990 crore, Rs 11,287 crore and Rs 10,910 crore, respectively," says Anjela Taneja of Oxfam India, a non-government organisation.

An education cess was introduced to supplement government funding but in reality the UPA has left the cess to bankroll the RTE. Over the years, the cess' share of total SSA funding has increased. It was 48 per cent in 2010 and is expected to rise to 66.4 per cent in 2014-15.

While student enrolment has improved, the quality of education leaves much to be desired. A study, conducted by the RTE Forum, an umbrella organisation of civil society groups, shows 63 per cent of children in Class III could recognise words and only 21 per cent could read a paragraph. In mathematics, it found 26 per cent children in Class III able to subtract and only 7.4 per cent able to divide.

State governments, which must implement the RTE, have been lax on their part too. "Irrespective of the party in power, no state has fully implemented the RTE. This is the case from Gujarat, with a 14.4 per cent compliance rate even in Ahmedabad, to Mizoram with zero per cent compliance in Serchhip district,'' says Ambarish Rai, convener of the RTE group.

According to the RTE Act, the deadline for having trained teachers in place is 2015. There are still 660,000 untrained teachers nationwide and 500,000 posts are vacant. One in nine schools has a single teacher, in violation of the Act.

The government is seeking private funding to make up for the resource crunch, but educationists emphasise the state cannot abdicate its role.

Only one in 12 schools comply with all the RTE norms. The RTE Forum says basic requirements like classrooms, toilets, drinking water and boundary walls are very often not in place.

Niranjan Aradhya, head of the Centre for the Child and the Law at the National Law School, Bangalore, says, "Neither the Centre nor the state governments have shown the will to implement this social agenda."

There are still eight per cent habitations that do not have a school within three km, seven per cent children in slums do not have a school within one km and 12 per cent of schools do not have all-weather roads leading to them.

The right to education is illusory for millions of children from tribal and minority communities and in conflict zones. All states do not have the commissions for protection of child rights needed to monitor the implementation of the Act.

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