TODAY -

Right to education

Seram Neken *



Is it legally permissive to conduct entrance test for admission of children into private schools, while the Right to Education act envisages to provide free and compulsory education for all children between 6 and 14 years ? The All Manipur Students' Guardians Association (AMSGA) has recently come out against conducting entrance test by some private schools of Manipur for admitting children as it violates the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. The guardians' body has demanded the Government to immediately halt such practice and penalize the defaulters.

It is now a legally enforceable duty of the government to provide free and compulsory education to children between 6 and 14 years of age. As early as in 1937, Mahatma Gandhi voiced the need for universal education. But due to financial dealings, the issue had remained elusive for a long time even after independence. It was only in December 2002 that education was made a fundamental right in the 86th amendment of the Constitution.

Every child between 6 and 14 years of age has the fundamental right to free and compulsory education under Article 21A (Part III) of Indian constitution. The act will benefit an estimated eight million out of school Indian children who are 6-14 years of age. It will help the world reach its goal to have every child complete primary school by 2015.

The Government is mandatory to provide schooling free-of-cost until a child's elementary education is completed. The government schools have to provide free education with free text books, writing materials and uniforms to all children while private schools have to devote at least 25% of the seats for children without any fee.

The National Commission for Elementary Education is to monitor the quality of elementary education provided under the provision. No child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until completion of elementary education. It is truly a ripe platform to reach the unreached, with specific provisions for disadvantaged groups, such as child laborers, migrant children, children with special needs, or those who are socially, culturally, economically, geographically and linguistically disadvantaged.

The authority has to undertake school mapping to identify the right children, including children in remote areas, children with disabilities, children belonging to disadvantaged groups, children belonging to weaker sections every year. No child will be subjected to caste, class, religious or gender abuse in the school. A child belonging to a weaker section and a child belonging to disadvantaged group should not be segregated or discriminated against in the classroom, during mid day meals, in the play grounds, in the use of common drinking water and toilet facilities, and in the cleaning of toilets or classrooms.

A child above six years of age who has not been admitted in any school or who could not complete elementary education shall be admitted in a class appropriate to its age. Such children who are admitted directly in a class appropriate to their age have the right to receive special training to be at par with their counterparts. The age of a child is to be determined on the basis of the birth certificate issued in accordance with the provisions of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1856.

No child shall be denied admission in a school for lack of age proof. A child who completes elementary education shall be awarded a certificate. No child will be awarded physical punishment, expulsion or detention and no teacher will be deployed for non-education purposes other than census, election duty or disaster relief.

There should be a fixed student-teacher ratio. Two trained teachers will be provided for every sixty students at the primary level. Teachers are required to attend school regularly and punctually, complete curriculum instruction, assess learning abilities and hold regular parent-teacher meetings. 25 percent reservation should be made for economically disadvantaged communities for admission to Class One in all private schools. School teachers need adequate professional degree within five years and School infrastructure is to be improved in three years.

Otherwise teachers will lose jobs and recognition of the institution will be cancelled. ?Financial burden will be shared between state and central government. The landmark passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 marks a historic moment for the children of India. This Act serves as a building block to ensure that every child has his or her right as an entitlement to get a quality elementary education. With the help of families and communities, the state has to fulfill this obligation.

The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has to review the safeguards for rights provided under this Act, investigate complaints and have the powers of a civil court in trying cases. States are obliged to constitute a State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) or the Right to Education Protection Authority (REPA). Any person wishing to file a grievance must submit a written complaint to the local authority. Appeals will be decided by the SCPCR/REPA. Prosecution of offences requires the sanction of an officer authorized by the appropriate government.

School Management Committees formed by the schools should comprise local authority officials, parents, guardians and teachers. The Committees shall form School Development Plans and monitor the whole school environment. Such community participation will be crucial in ensuring a child friendly school environment where separate toilet facilities for girls and boys and adequate attention to health, water, sanitation and hygiene issues is established.

Laws and Bills don't simply make children go to school. What matters is whether the right children will have access to this programme. Social responsibility is a must. Public awareness of the Right to education act and fixing responsibilities to the officials and experts concerned should precede implementation of the programme.

Laws and Bills don't simply make children go to school. What matters is whether the programme will actually reach the unreached. Social responsibility towards identification of right children and effective management of schools is a must. Public awareness of the Right to education act and fixing responsibilities to the official concerned and the civil society should precede implementation of the programme in the nook and corner.




*Seram Neken ( a regular columnist for Hueiyen Lanpao) is a winner of RK Maipaksana Journalist Fellowship 2010 . This article was webcasted on March 24 2011.

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