By Ben Ngangom
Whether due to the common efforts from educationists, academicians, and civil society- groups or just by the constitution amenders, it was a giant step to put a 60 years old dysfunctional Directive Principle of State Policy into the group of Fundamental Rights. The year 2002 marked a reformation when the 86th Constitutional Amendment was passed by Parliament and Article 45 which stated that “The state shall Endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of the constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years”, was plucked and planted within the garden of Article 21 (Right to Life) and was named as Right to Education (RTE) with ID No 21A.
Statement written in 21A reads as “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years as the state may, by law determine”. Following from this, the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) was drafted and passed in Parliament on August 27, 2009 (notified on February 16, 2010 to come into effect from April 1, 2010). In so counting, the number of days passed after the Act came into effect, 730 days have passed and as 2012 calendar ends it will add another 275 days to the time since the Act came into effect from April 1, 2010.
Now quoting the statement of 21A again, “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years as the state may, by law determine” it doesn’t seems like that the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 is a Fundamental Right but a Directive Principle of State Policy because the statement clearly mentioned as; “the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of age 6 to 14 years” implicating as if this Act is a inseparable part of Article 46. The remaining part further enhances the confusion more if it is a Fundamental Right or Directive Principle of State Policy since it says; “as the state may, by law determine.” This clearly identifies that when this
Act was passed, it was resolved unanimously by default with the head of the states seal and signed without revision and nothing was taken into account.
Let us begin from the beginning of the quick-guide book of RTE provided by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, where the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) or the State Committee for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) has the quasi-judicial powers to function as a civil court where complaints and grievances can be addressed, some norms are mentioned as:
1. FREE ELEMENTARY EDUCATION OF ALL CHILDREN IN AGE GROUP 6-14 YEARS IN A NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL.
In this section, it mentioned that no financial constraint can prevent a child from enrolling, attending and completing elementary education; free transportation facility; crutches for disabled child or some other facility should be entitled for going to school under this act. A neighborhood school is defined as a school, constraining from the wide definition as in the Model Rules of the Act, ordinarily as 1 Km walking distance from the child’s habitation at primary level and 3 Km for upper primary levels (bicycle is being provided at one household in Silchar of Assam as free transportation). However it also mentioned that in case of sparse populations or those prone to natural disasters or with difficult terrain or civil unrest (civil unrest may be suitable to apply in Manipur), this limitation can be changed and residential facilities provided so that the children’s education is uninterrupted.
The question is who is going to provide all of these needs, the Central Government, NCPCR or SCPCR or the parents who are below poverty line.
COMPULSORY ELEMENTARY EDUCATION:
Regarding this, compulsory is for the government alone and DUTY of the parent to send their children to school (Article 15) and also an obligation of the government to ensure not just enrolment but attendance and completion of elementary education. This implies that the government:
a) Must identify out of school or dropped out children.
b) Make sure that they are enrolled in a school.
c) Make sure that they attend school on a regular basis.
d) Make sure they complete elementary education cycle.
e) If parents are reluctant to send their children, the government responsibly must find a way out to convince the parents without force/violence/pressure to make them send their children to school.
As of now, since the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) was drafted and passed in Parliament on August 27, 2009 (notified on February 16, 2010 to come into effect from April 1, 2010), who has checked how many children has been identified as dropped out or enrolled or checked if they are enrolled to ensure if they are attending school on regular basis or how many, if enrolled had finished their elementary education cycle, representatives from NCPCR or SCPCR or the from educationists, academicians, and civil society groups who were present at the discussion to amend and pass the RTE 2009?
2. ADMISSION WITHOUT FEES, DOCUMENTS OR SCREENING PROCEDURES.
With context to this,
a) No age proof certificate is required at the time of admission.
b) No admission or capitation fee can be charged.
c) No screening procedure to be used at the time of admission.
Violation of b) and c) will result in financial penalties.
3. AGE APPROPRIATE EDUCATION
a) This means, a drop out or a child who has not been to school, say 10 years must be enrolled to class 5,
b) To enable the 10 years old to cope in class 5 “SPECIAL TRAINING” will be provided on the premises to bring the child up to the age appropriate level.
If we look at No 3 and 4 of the SCPCR published quick-guide book of the act, it contradicts itself in a) of 3 with a) of 4 for without age proof certificate no one can tell instantly if the child is 10 years or 11 years old until and unless the parents tell the truth or there is a genetic test for age of the cell of the child. The in b) of 3, if no admission fee is taken, taking the financial situation of Manipur or some other state that has no permanent residual tax income, how far can this go if it is a Directive Principle of State policy and it again will result to violation of Article 45 and of 21A. If special training will be provided, that has the SCPCR / NCPCR or the Education (S) of the state governments prepared a training module since the inception of SCPCR in 2007. How many states have set up the autonomous body called the NCPCR?
Then the violation of article 45 and 21A is going to happen by the poor financial condition of the state government, then why the financial penalty should be there for Violation of b) and c) of section 2 of the NCPCR published book. (A report by NDTV says that the percentage of class 5 students who can read or solve class 2 has reduced to 40% from 50% in the years after implementation of RTE)
4. QUALITY NORMS FOR ALL SCHOOLS:
The RTE 2009 Act lays out some basic norms for both for Govt. and Private schools.
a) PTR 1:30 and 1:35 for primary and upper primary respectively.
b) 200 and 220 working days for and upper primary respectively in a school functioning year.
c) Teacher’s minimum working hours: 45 hrs a week and instruction time 4 to 4.5 hrs for primary and upper primary respectively.
d) Separate head-teacher in all schools and separate subject teacher in upper primary schools.
e) One room for every teacher.
f) Separate and functional toilets; clean and adequate drinking water.
g) Playground, boundary wall, library and kitchen for Mid-day meals.
Now let select the folder of the hard disk of our human body and open it, we can view the cinematography of the schools run by the Government of Manipur and some other states too and we can find unanswered questions as:
1. Are the regular teachers selected under SSA and RMSA getting separate rooms?
2. Is the PTR 1:30 or 10:30?
3. Are the teachers working 45 hrs a week with 4 to 4.5 hrs of dedicated, non- lethargic instruction?
4. Is there adequate drinking water facilitated to every Government school?
5. Are there separate functional toilets for government schools?
6. Is there adequate playground for every government schools? If yes, where can we apply as per RTI to get the data and if no then why the provision.
7. Is there adequate library for every school? If yes, where can we get the data through RTI to know the number of books and the amount spent on it? If no, then when can it be provided by the law framera or law amendment decision makers or SCPCR/NCPCR, the autonomous body that is guarding the security of the RTE ACT 2009.
8. Are there mid-day meals provided regularly? Probably the answer maybe a yes for some schools or a no for some schools.
In more of section in the Guide book of NPCPR mentioning
The main features of RTE Act 2009 as per the teacher’s qualification norms, norms of NCTE, upgrade of Teachers Training Institutions (TTI), curriculum in line with constitution as per section 7 of the guide like age accounted syllabus and books, no failure till completion of elementary education, evaluation of a child to be done throughout the year and not on annual exam and must be on comprehensive performance of the child, maintenance of Pupil Cumulative Record (PCR) by the teacher, PCR to include theatre, music social skills etc.
In section 8, School Management Committee (SMC) is mandatory to be formed in a ration of 75% parents out of which 50% must be women, head of SMC to be parent,members of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI), head teacher and civil society. PRIs have been given a wide role which is all beneficial for the children who are within the age limit of RTE 2009 like child tracking, school mapping (if conducted operationally).
With regard to the issue of reservation in private schools as per section 11 of the NCPCR, it says that 25% from weaker or socially disadvantaged groups from their neighborhood should be admitted and is also mentioned that the neighborhood limits are to be extended if 25% seats are not being filled with the standard limits of neighborhood i.e. 1km and 3km as mentioned above. It also mentioned that these private schools will be reimbursed as per the rate of per learner costs of government schools in the state. Taking into account that Manipur state often in a financial turmoil resulting to cease work strikes by various state government employees and even the government is downsizing the Ministry also how long can a private school management body run after the Implementing and monitoring agency, the Education Department in conjunction with PRIs as Implementers and NCPCR and SCPCR as monitors for release of reimbursement if these 25% weaker socially disadvantaged children are admitted in the incoming classes.
The implementation of the RTE ACT 2009 is going to be a giant effort and requires a revision of the act to be more precise in becoming a part of Right to Life under Article 21A.
(The writer is a Child Rights Activist)