Whither the right of children to free and compulsory education act, 2009? A Case Study In Odisha
Sukanti Munda is a ten-year-old girl who belongs to Pichhilabeda village in Swampatna Block of Keonjhar District. Sukanti has five brothers and two sisters. They live in abject poverty. Sukanti collects the shal leaves from forest and makes leaf plates and sells them in market everyday. She also goes for the daily wage earning to earn for her family livelihoods. With this little amount of money the family lives.
Looking at the need of the family her mother becomes a member in the SHG and participated in the Income Generating activity for which she would be able to earn her family livelihoods. Now her mother Gambhari Munda sends her daughter to Sradha Bahavan run by People’s Cultural Centre (PECUC) and Sukanti has become regular to school.
Similarly, fifteen-year-old Padar Munda son of Hari Munda of Bhaliadala village in Swampatna Block of Keonjhar district had discontinued his study and was taken to Goa by a relative Rainmon Munda, who was working there as a contractor. Without the permission of his family he had engaged Padar as a labour. Even Mr Rainmon could not allow the boy to speak over the phone to his family members. During the course of time when Padar’s father Hari Munda became the member of Child Right Protection Committee (CRPC) and shared his sufferings before the CRPC and the boy was back to home safe with the intervention of CRPC and local volunteers and now admitted to school again.
The information collected through volunteers and RTI worker of Khaprakhol block of Bolangir district through Voice of Child Right Odisha (VCRO) in September 2011, reveals that there are 153 elementary schools running in Khaprakhol block. Among all 96 are primary (I-V), 51 PS+UPS (I-VIII) and 6 UPS (V-VIII). Here 12677 students are studying. Teachers position in primary school is 161, in PS+UPS 216 and 18 in UPS. To provide quality education trained teachers most require for schools. But in Khaprakhol block nearly half of the teachers i.e. 47 per cent are un-trained posted in the schools. The un-trained teachers’ volume has been increasing rapidly for last 4-5 years said Mr Golap Nial, an activist of Khaprakhol block.
Shortage of teachers and huge number of un-trained teachers are not only the problems of primary education of Khaprakhol block. Other issues like lack of infrastructure, non-availability of drinking water, un-healthy sanitary system also existing here, said Khuturam Sunani a fellow with CRY network. He further added, “The primary education of Khaprakhol block is moving in miserable condition. Teachers’ absenteeism, apathy of administration, indifference attitude along with ignorance of the villagers and school management committees are accelerating the volume of problems. The organisation has raised the issue with higher authorities of elementary education.”
The village Patdaraha is situated on a hilltop nearby Chhattisgarh state border and within the Maoists’ infected Sunabeda sanctuary and come under Bhainsadani gram panchayat of Boden block. Its population is 1718 and is dominated by tribe. There is no road facility to the village. The villagers depend on streams for drinking water. They eke out their living from agriculture and forest produces. People bring their goods from nearby town Boden on the heads and shoulders. Horses are also used for transportation since time immemorial. Any one can imagine the plight of the villagers—how the adivasis are living in this plateau.
There are seven primary schools and one upper primary school running in the village (Revenue Village) Patdaraha constituted by a dozen of hamlets of Nuapada district. Earlier maximum schools of this area were run by single teachers. At present all schools have at least two teachers with the continuous efforts by local volunteers. At least 14 teachers of 17 schools are posted from the plain area in this plateau. But the appointed teachers are not coming regularly. Now the villagers have decided to bring to the notice of district collector otherwise they will resort to a dharana in front of the collectorate, said Sunani.
“In spite of all the tall claims by the state government, the situation of the schools and mass education has not changed much in the backward regions like Western and Southern Odisha. The condition of the education system in the tribal and Dalit-dominated areas of the state is still worst”, said Sai Prasan of Janata Vikash Manch. He further added, “Around half of the schools in the state are not having full-time teachers in science, maths and others streams. The salary structure of the teachers employed on contract is the lowest in the state compared to any other profession. Hence, the education sector is not able to attract good talent to teach the students. Good teachers are required to impart quality of education that is the need of the hour in Odisha.”
A report prepared by JVM also revealed that the education system is also not uniform in the state. Different education systems exist depending on the financial status of the family of the students. On the one hand, there are English medium convent schools meant for the upper crust of the society while the poor people send their children to the state owned schools. There is a gulf of difference in the education system meant for both the categories. The state education department is carrying out some cosmetic reforms like introducing a dress code for the teachers and the students as well.
When asked Chitta Behera, an analysist on education policy, said: “The Right to Education Act, properly speaking Right of Children to Fee and Compulsory Education 2009 is doomed to failure, as is well known, no Act can be implemented without being followed by the necessary Rules made by the appropriate government to give effect to the provisions of the Act. Though the Act was declared by a notification dated February 19, 2010 to be enforced w.e.f. April 1, 2010, no Rules—Central or State level—were found in place on that crucial day. The Central Rules was notified on April 9, 2010, while as per the official release made at the end of the first year of the Act, as of April 1, 2011 only 9 out of 29 States (such as Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan and Sikkim) notified their Rules and only 2 out of 6 UTs (namely, A & N Islands and Chandigarh) adopted the Central Rules.”
He has further alleged, “For instance, the Rule 6 of Odisha Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2010 notified on 27.9.2010 mandated the state government and as well local authorities to set up such schools so as to fulfil the prime goal of the Act enshrined in its Section 3 (1) which reads, ‘Every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall have a right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school till the completion of elementary education.’ But ironically enough, the same Government of Odisha only after a few months, to be exact 3 months and 20 days, effected an amendment to State RTE Rules on January 17, 2011, which inter alia stated, “….where no school exists within the area or limits of neighborhood …. The government/local authority shall make arrangements, such as free transportation, escort facilities and residential facilities, for providing elemental education in a school, in relaxation of the area or limits specified in the said rule.’ It implied that the state government without having to set up neighbourhood schools where they didn’t exist could manage with such cheaper and ad hoc alternatives as transport and escort facilities etc.”
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, was notified on August 27, 2009 in the Gazette of India. The act 2009 was approved by the cabinet on the July 2, 2009, introduced and passed in the Rajya Sabha on the December 15, 2008 and August 4, 2009, in the Lok Sabha. It received the presidential assent and was notified as law.
Despite efforts made by government and NGOs, experts have identified factors which may lead to non- implementation of the Act. According to Anil Pradhan of Sikhyasandhan, “The Act advocates for a minimum of two teachers in a school. Teacher-student ratio should not be a criterion for schools having less than 60 students. Shortage of trained teachers: There is a huge shortage of trained teachers in Odisha. Appointment of Sikshasahayak (On the basis of contractual payment); Government has no plan to appoint regular teachers in the schools.
The Act shows no mention of this. As a result the government will appoint teachers only on the basis of contractual payments. In Odisha we have around 52000 (51,239) teachers posts vacant in elementary schools. The Minister of School and Mass Education has already declared to fill in these vacancies by appointing teachers on contractual basis. In a school one teacher receives Rs 15,000 per month and others obtain Rs 4,000.
Under these conditions it is impossible to motivate the underpaid teachers to work with the same level of motivation as well-paid teachers. This will definitely have a negative impact and we cannot expect quality education under such circumstances.”
While speaking to this correspondent a senior state government official said, a series of programmmes has been launched by the state government like state-level consultation workshops, Notification of Odisha RCFCE Rules, 2010, RTE Cell, Pedagogy Cell, Samadhan, Sadhan, Sanjog, Issuance of Notifications, formation and training of state team of trainers, development of IEC materials on RTE, state-level sensitisation meet on RTE, performance tracking and monitoring process, district-level sensitisation meets on RTE, formation of district team of trainers (DToT) on RTE, Capacity Building and Re-orientation of School & Mass Education Department officials, teachers awareness on RTE, Inter-department Convergence, Government-Civil Societies Partnership, sensitisation meets for private schools on RTE, updating of baseline data, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), Grievance Redressal Cell and School Students’ Helpline, Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) process, Empowerment of PRIs through convergence with Panchayati Raj Department, Formation of School Management Committees, Shiksha Chetana Abhiyan, Ama Vidyalaya, Samarthya, are the prominent ongoing programmes,
In compliance with the RCFCF Act, 2009 the state government has issued following notifications from time to time and these have been placed in the public domain like prohibition of corporal punishment in schools September 23, 2010, school support scheme September 29, 2010, declaration of academic authority (director, TE & SCERT) October 29, 2010, discontinuation of board examination at elementary level from academic session 2010-11 November 4, 2010, prohibition of screening procedures November 4, 2010, guidelines for admission in private unaided school December 18 2010, guidelines for composition and functions of school management committee in elementary school were issued on January 11, 2011, etc.
Besides these, the School Management Committees have been formed in at least 50,511 schools as on April 30, 2011 across the state. The newly formed committees held a meeting on functions of SMCs, local issues of education and RTE during a state-wide community mobilisation campaign on RTE. The RTE cell is closely monitoring the process of formation of SMCs and progress across the state. Sample study on the composition of SMCs across 19 districts of over 200 schools is being conducted.
The RTE cell has provided technical support in strategy development and in facilitating implementation of the same. The flash data received from 30 districts indicate 5.95 lakh new enrolments during the campaign period alone. The highest enrolment recorded was from Mayurbhanj district i.e. 44,600 children.
But all these initiatives seem to have no impact on the grassroots many of the SMCs and teachers engagement with the implementation of RTE could not fetch any result because of the lack of training and capacity building. Ranjan Mohanty of Odisha Alliance on Child Right Convention(OACRC) said that the most important aspect was the participation of children in school governance.
Though the government has taken a number of steps and policy decisions, their impact has not been felt. NCLP schools are inadequate, the protection mechanism under CLP and RA has not been enforced. A draft action plan was prepared on child labour prohibition and rehabilitation based on the report of Laxmidhar Mishra of NHRC to rehabilitate child labour after rescue. Similarly, parents of child labour were supposed to be included in BPL list. All these recommendations were not seen the light of day.
Amidst all these, though a year has passed since RTEs implementation, age appropriate classes and schools for child labour and especially for dropout students have not been taken off. Similarly, it was said that within six months of RTE pupil-teacher ratio will be maintained and state governments were asked to ensure reservation of 25 per cent seats in private and unaided schools. But all these announcements turned as hollow claims.
Education being the basic pillar for development, the government cannot shy away from its constitutional obligation of delivering quality education as every drop-out child and student from schools shall be treated as child labour.
By Sudarshan Chhotoray