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Right to Education and the Government Schools in Manipur; A Critical View

C. Thangminlal Doungel *

Right To Education RTE Act 2009
Right To Education RTE Act 2009 :: Pix - india.gov.in



With the enactment of Right to Education (RTE) act by the parliament on 4th august 2009, India became one amongst 135 countries to make RTE a fundamental right. The 86th constitutional amendment act of 2002 inserted article 21A, making the Right to free and compulsory education a fundamental right of every child between the ages 6-14 years in the country. This was a watershed in the Indian educational system, with the act coming into force on 1st April 2010.

The genesis of Right to Free and Compulsory Education in India is as old as the constitution itself. However, the milestone achieved thus far in practice hardly deserves a laudation. The guardian of the law, our mighty constitution still fails miserably to ensure the rightful place for millions of our children other than the streets and ghettos of the country. There is an outpour of deep distress over the state of our educational system but none to blame, the plight lingers on.

According to the latest census, India's literacy rate stands at 74.04 percent nationally, which is lower than even most of the Asian countries. Yet, there are few states in the country doing exceptionally well. Mention can be made of states and a union territory like Kerala, Mizoram and Lakshadweep with 93.91, 91.58, and 92.28 percent respectively. While our state Manipur still stands at just 76.94 percent, just above the national average of 74.04 percent according to the 2011 census. Despite the outstanding performances by few states, there are on the other hand, a bunch of other states still in the dark shadows of illiteracy, where RTE at present context still seem beyond redemption.

RTE in Manipur

The department of Education, government of Manipur on 21st October 2010, issued a notification under NO.30/39/10-SE(S) with regards to the right of children to free and compulsory education rules that extends to the whole of Manipur. The rules clearly stated and defined the ideals and objective of the right of children to free and compulsory education act. 2009 and other range of criteria's that will help ensure proper implementation of the act, to usher in the desired and holistic development of the child's education as per the constitutional provision.

Today the implementation of the act is now en route to its decennial journey, but the ground reality still reveals a sad story. The accomplishments on the part of the administration, in ensuring the implementation of the said norms are still far from its realisation. The negligence and inaction's of the administration has given a space for more fallout, thus allowing the perpetuation of impasse within our government schools at the elementary levels.

Education comes under the current list, and therefore the centre and the state have both shared responsibilities. All grants and fund related are shared in a certain ratio between them although not uniformly across the country. There is an extra provision for the states of N.E. where the grant is disproportionately shared in the ratio of 90:10 between the centre and the states. Rationally speaking the beneficiaries of this extra grace should ideally be able to generate an astounding example for all the other states of the country. However, with the exception of Mizoram and Tripura the rest of the N.E states are non- performing and still floats somewhere in the Middle. This reality exposed before us truly proves beyond doubt, our apathy towards educational reforms in the equally potential government schools to that of private schools of the states.

I strongly detest and contest the beliefs and notion, that lack of grants and insurgency is the root cause of the non-performance of our government schools; for I am beyond reasonable conviction that the lumpen elements that thwart the fruit of our education in government schools are those people in the seat of administration at every levels and the void that lies between them and the Local Administration.

Close look at the government schools in Kerala and Mizoram clearly reveals, that no stone is left unturned to ensure every child finds a place in the schools, while further creating an ambiance cordial for a genuine education through extra provisions of the law and thereby ensuring its strict implementation.

Findings from highly placed sources reveals that, state like Mizoram, along with the adoption of RTE act 2009 enacted its own Mizoram right of children to free and compulsory education rule 2011. According to the rules, children ages between 6-14 years are given compulsory schooling and a special training for those children who require extra attention. In addition, there is also a strict provision for free textbooks, writing materials and free Uniform for BPL families, thus enabling educational transformation from the grassroots. This extra mile covered by the state helped Mizoram outshine the rest of the other N.E states in terms of literacy rate.

IS EDUCATION REALLY FREE?

Findings have brought to light that ensuring of free and compulsory elementary education of our children in the state is still a myth in various government schools. The dynamics of the rules to regulate our schools enlisted in the documents until this day fails miserably to roll out its promises.

Some schools even goes a step further by conducting enrolment of students protected under the constitutional law, and allowing admissions only through payments with undisclosed amounts though usually minimal. Children's are charged absent fine and given corporal punishment if their parents couldn't ensure timely payments of tuition fees. They and their ignorant parents are also tricked and made to pay for their free school uniforms. In many cases children drop out of schools for being unable to bear the shame because of the atrocities they face in their second home. And although books are distributed for free, there aren't enough copies to cater the number of students in need for various reasons no one can explain.

The ignorance of poor parents becomes the source of income for those greedy few, who in the name of education only drains the society into a great debt morally and economically if not socially. This practice stands in stark contrast against the spirit and intent of the Constitution under article 21A. Therefore, when education for the poor comes with payment no matter how minimal the amount, it accentuates and deepen their misery and poverty. Thus the greed of few results in the drain of wealth for the poor masses.

THE PLIGHT OF GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS

Although there are a good number of government schools in the valley as competent as those of private schools, those of the outskirts stands nowhere. The administration of schools in the far flung Hilly areas shows how schools are manipulated by local authorities, so much so that the existence of the Headmaster becomes nominal.

On the flip side of the coin, we also find how certain teachers are literally pulled and pushed to take charge of their duties by the local authorities (usually the village Chief) as in many cases they are close relatives, and administration of the schools becomes a family affairs. But in reality, the latter is rare to find, for many authorities are least concern about the welfare of the schools. Their interest only lies in filling their pockets through the arrival of financial funds and schemes that are meant strictly for the schools. They have painstakingly neglected that the good of the schools in the village is equally parallel to the good of all.

As per official report, in 2013 there were 28 out of 323 government schools which did not have a single student who passed the HSLC exam. And in 2014 & 2015 the number increased to 48 & 70 respectively. The ordeal continued, and in 2016 the number increased furthermore to 73 out of the same total number of government schools in the state to have a zero pass percentage in the HSLC exam conducted by the Board of Secondary Education Manipur (BSEM). All these reality check expose the seriousness of the step motherly treatment meted out on government schools in the state.

Starting from the recruitment of government Teachers, corruption at every levels in the administration have a fine place in our educational system. Many government schools do not exist in building, but only in paper. There are teachers where there are no students even if the building exists. Names are recorded and maintained for the sake of escaping the penalty of losing the job. Even where students are, the condition of the school does not allow a learning ambiance. Many schools have no benches to sit on, and board & desk to write on. The roofs of the buildings are leaking, and in due season many schools turns into cowsheds and a home for animals of various kinds.

There are schools which function but still lack basic amenities. The toilets in the schools are shared, while water for usages is scanty. Under such circumstances the school children are thus forced to defecate in the open. Portable water is not installed in the school premise and children are left at the mercy of their own provisions. In many cases teachers come late for the classes and many a time escape the purview of the law even if they sleep the whole time instead of taking classes.

The other dilemma of every government school is the calibre of the teacher to teach. Many findings have brought to the fore the fallouts of our educational systems in the country with regard to the competence of the teachers. Our state Manipur is also not free from these loopholes. The rampant practice of putting a hired competent teacher in the rightful place of the Teacher has helped bolster our education to an extent, but the take for granted attitude at the same time equally distort the creamy achievements of our educational institutions because of the meagre salary that fails to meet their ends.

CONCLUSION

The high level of competition in this age of cut throat competition, government schools finds no place in the arena. The booming of private schools has further led to denial of the desired fruits from the government schools. However, education no matter the place has always a value innate in them, and to illumine the candle of education in government school is of primordial importance today to ensure inclusive education.

Without the active participation and enrolment of children in the government schools at the elementary and primary level as they should be, every effort to ensure 100% literacy in the state at the present scenario will only be a distant dream to vanity. It is also important to acknowledge that all the flamboyant achievements of the private schools in the field of education are still a hearth story of every family rich or poor.

But these comes with great lose from families bed ridden with poverty as they quest to be in par with the others in the society, while forfeiting the privileges endowed to them. Lending a deaf ear to the voices and the rights of the deserving poor just because of their ignorance should no more be the reason for their perpetual suppression; for these ills of democracy must give way or else the repercussion will be nothing but doom for our own future.

It is therefore pertinent that the present state of elementary schools in the state take a paradigm shift to revive its potentials. To enable this, the state government and all other stakeholders should generate the right will power, take prompt action and work hand in hand to rebuild the fallen wall of education in government schools, which have thus far been left unattended for so long.


* C. Thangminlal Doungel wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is M.A (F) Sociology at Delhi School Of Economics and can be contacted at thangminlal1994(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on October 05 2016.


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