Right to Education

Nine years since the enactment of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009), there are still huge shortcomings in its implementation.

According to reports from the National University of Education Planning and Administration (NUEPA), 3.7 crore Indian children are out of school today. To this day, the government has made no effort to identify children between the ages of 6 and 14 through household surveys (in accordance with section 9(d) of the Act read with Rule 10). Indeed, calculating from Census and U-DISE (Unified District Information) on School Education for 2011-12, we find out that 14.5 per cent of all children aged 6-14 are out of school. Without proper and prompt mapping, children working in hotels and garages, as beggars, as servants, in brothels, on railway platforms, in bondage, in brick kilns and elsewhere are denied their constitutionally provided right to a better life through education.

Indeed, it is shocking that the Indian state, which boasts of a GDP of 7 per cent, should have 14.8 per cent of its children out of school. What is worse that the government has not conducted any school mapping exercises to determine how many children are out of school as well the geographical spread of children in the neighbourhood to ensure that that the norm of the one-kilometre walk for primary schools as three-kilometre walk for upper primary schools is implemented in letter and spirit. The task of mapping schools and identifying children is the statutory duty of governments and local authorities, who have shunned their responsibility.

Further, there is a dire dearth of qualified and trained teachers in our schools. For primary schools, for instance, the Act prescribes a minimum Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) of 30:1. However, NUEPA data shows that almost 26 per cent of the country’s government primary schools have a poorer PTR.

According to the ‘Report of the Working Group on Teacher Education for 12th Five-Year Plan’ by HRD ministry’s Department of School Education and Literacy, 9.6 lakh teaching posts were vacant in the seven ‘high deficit’ states (Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal). Despite this, in most parts of the country, teachers continued to be appointed on contractual basis, suffer because of delayed salaries and are burdened with administrative and non-academic work beyond school hours, for which SLIC petition in the Supreme Court sought the recruitment of professionally trained teachers to fill this lacunae.

The teachers that do show up, too, are less-than-ideally trained. According to 2015 data, only around a quarter of primary school teachers received training during the 2013-2014 period. This isn’t all; almost every marker of infrastructure across schools in the country has been found lacking.

3 per cent of schools operate without providing safe drinking water to children.
16.5 per cent have no functional toilers for girls at primary level.
Nearly 77 per cent of schools function without toilets for children with special needs.
Over 35 per cent of schools have no boundary walls, while over 39 per cent have no playgrounds.

Only 9.5 per cent of schools are compliant with all the norms and standards regarding infrastructure, pupil-teacher ratio, availability of free text books and work books and so on. But instead of working to equip schools, several state governments have been shutting schools – with the numbers running into hundreds, if not thousands, in each state.

In addition to these existing problems, as identified in an SLIC PIL in the Supreme Court, 35 per cent of all schools are functioning without obtaining proper certificates of recognition – and without facing any repercussions!

With such falling standards of education, it is no surprise that we are now witnessing a decrease in the enrolment of children in schools with each passing year.

What SLIC Does

The problems that face the field of education in India are many and immense. Our organisation is constantly fighting for the rights of children to a free and well-rounded education. SLIC fights these cases in the Supreme Court as well as various high courts. A writ petition filed by us in the Supreme Court (also referenced out above) points out to the most prominent shortcomings in the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, and seeks its full implementation in letter and spirit.

Watch this space for more updates as they develop.

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