The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act came into being in 2009 and became effective from 1 April 2010. However, Government’s attitude towards its implementation is at best lackadaisical.
It is the duty of government and local authority to ensure that children belonging to weaker section and disadvantaged group are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any ground. But in the 2016-17 academic session, 105 children were denied admission by City Montessori School, Navyug Radiance, City International, St. Mary Intermediate College and Virendra Swaroop Public School in spite of an order by the District Magistrate under section 12(1)(c) of the Act. 14 of these children who were supposed to be admitted to CMS went to the High Court but even the court didn’t give a clear-cut direction for admission. Would the administration, government, and court have been so lax if these children belonged to the elite?
The local authority is responsible under the Act to maintain records of children up to the age of fourteen years residing within its jurisdiction and ensure and monitor admission, attendance, and completion of the elementary education. They are supposed to provide infrastructure including school building, teaching staff and learning material, facility for training of teachers and ensure good quality elementary education. But Municipal Corporation is blissfully unaware of its role under the RTE Act in Lucknow. The situation is likely to be the same in other places.
Government and local authority have been tasked with establishing schools in the neighborhood where there are none within 3 years from the implementation of the Act. But there are a number of residential areas like Sector P, Basic Services for Urban Poor Housing, near Jogger’s Park, Dubagga in Lucknow where there are no schools. How are the children supposed to receive the education?
The local authority has also been assigned the duty of ensuring admission of children of migrant families to government schools. Vijaya Ramachandran, social activist, and daughter of former President R. Venkataraman has been working for the cause of education of children of construction workers and brick kilns in Kanpur for over four decades now. Her request to the government and administration to get children of these workers enrolled in government schools is being completely ignored.
The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath while launching his ‘Study Well, Grow Immensely’ campaign has distributed books, uniform, shoes, socks and school bags to children and said that he doesn’t want a single child to be out of school but didn’t elaborate on how he wishes to achieve this. The only good thing he said was he would like to restore the positive image of government schools.
In Lucknow recently a fast was organized to get Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s judgment implemented which directs the children of all receiving salaries from the government to study in government schools. The government chose to ignore the fast. The fast was withdrawn on the 7th day on 3rd July 2017 accepting juice from a child who begs and mother of another child whose admission was ordered by the DM in Navyug Radiance school but the school didn’t admit this child. This was a slap in the face of government and administration.
Will Yogi tell us how he proposes to get these 105 children admitted to schools which are openly violating the RTE Act? During the current academic year also CMS has gone to the court challenging 40 admission orders stating that these children do not fulfill the norms prescribed under RTE Act. How can it be that Jagdish Gandhi, the manager of CMS, finds fault with every admission that is being approved in his school by the Basic Shiksha Adhikari, the district level education officer? Either the BSA is incompetent or Jagdish Gandhi is playing truant. Does the administration or government have the will power to take action against powerful private schools? Jagdish Gandhi is certainly denying the right of education to some children.
It is good that the government wants to restore the prestige of its schools. But that is not going to happen by merely distributing material items required to attend schools including books and dress or by tree plantation campaign which has been linked with the enrollment drive this year in U.P. till 31 July. It will happen only when the children of government officers, employees, people’s representatives and judges will study in government schools. The quality of government schools will change dramatically overnight if this happens which will directly benefit the poor as their children will also receive a good education then. Additionally, it will create an option for the middle class who are forced to spend exorbitant sums on the education of their children.
There is also a demand that like the Act implemented from this academic year in Gujarat which places an annual limit of Rs. 15,000 for primary schools and Rs. 25,000 for middle and higher middle schools and Rs. 27,000 for the higher middle with Science as fees for private schools a similar law should be brought in U.P. The fees limits for U.P., which is a poorer state compared to Gujarat, has been proposed as Rs. 6,000 and Rs. 10,000, annually, respectively for primary and middle-higher middle sections.
Lately, the Uttarakhand High Court has been very proactive in giving strict rulings related to the state of government schools there. It has ruled that until all government schools have basic facilities like benches, tables, chalk, duster, separate toilets for girls and boys, computers, science laboratories, fans for summer and heaters for winter, good quality mid-day meals, library, water purifiers, two set of dresses for children the government would not be allowed to buy luxury items like expensive cars, air conditioners, and furniture. The court has come down heavily on the higher level officials including Principal Secretary of Education department saying that if they don’t arrange above-mentioned things for schools their salaries would be stopped from January 2018.
Similarly, Madras High Court in a recent judgment has disallowed starting an English section saying that teachers have no interest in teaching in government schools as their own children don’t study in them.