RTE nearing 5 years, 1 lakh schools shut down across India: national forum

Government surrendering assets to private players in educational field, alleges national RTE forum; plans to start nationwide campaign for last 150 days till final deadline for implementation of RTE Act on March 31, 2015

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | October 28, 2014 | New Delhi



About 1 lakh schools have been closed down across the country since the enactment of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in April 2010, according to data compiled by a civil society organisation tracking the big-ticket legislation carried out by the former UPA government.

In the last about five years, merger and closure of various government primary schools have taken place in different states, says the national RTE forum, a civil society coalition of 10,000 grassroots organisations, educationists, national networks and teacher’s organisations.

Addressing the media on Tuesday (October 28), the forum’s representatives said that as per information collected from various state government websites, 17,129 schools have been merged in Rajasthan, of which 4,000 have been completely shut. In Telangana, 2,000 schools have been closed, while the figure is 5,000 schools in Odisha, and 1,200 in Uttarakhand.

Ambarish Rai, national convener of the forum, claimed that the government is surrendering assets to the private players. He said that unregulated mushrooming of low-budget private schools and PPP model-based schools are other mechanisms diluting the spirit of the legal mandate.

The Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2009, provides, among others, "right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school”. It also guarantees that “every child has a right to full-time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards”.

Rai said in all, India lacks 1.2 million teachers – including regular, trained and qualified tutors – in government schools across the country. “Ten percent schools are still run by a single teacher, and millions of children continue to remain out of school,” he said. “Resource is still a big challenge. Despite the RTE Act prohibiting appointment of teachers on contract, states continue to appoint new teachers on contract basis.

“Instead of strengthening the RTE Act and restructuring government schools, the government is handing over schools to private entities in the name of quality improvement.”

Rai said this shows that states are ready to give up the responsibility of providing universalised education for all.

The last deadline for implementation of the Act is March 31, 2015. It was set for the regularisation of all teachers on contract and simultaneously training them to improve the overall quality of education imparted at government schools.

Launching a national campaign – ‘Claiming Education for Every Child’ – for the last 150 days till the final deadline for implementation of the RTE Act, Rai said the national RTE forum will demand the fulfillment of the constitutional obligation of the government within the stipulated time. The campaign starts from November 1, he announced.

Annie Namala, director at Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion and a former member of NAC, emphasised the need for inclusion of disadvantaged and marginalised groups, including dalits, tribals, disabled and minorities, while implementing the Act.

Highlighting the state of government schools in the national capital, RC Dabbas, vice-president of all-India primary teachers federation (AIPTF), said there has been no recruitment in these institutions in the last six years while there is a vacancy of 10,000 teachers. Besides, around 150 schools have been merged and the number of students taking admission in MCD schools has decreased by 1 lakh, he said.

“People who can afford to pay even Rs 200 as monthly fee are sending their children to low-budget private schools, but the child hardly learns anything in such schools,” Dabbas said. “Once they complete education till class 4, they return to take admission in a government school.” 

The RTE forum’s representatives said that as part of the campaign around 10 lakh grievances and cases of violation will be collected from different parts of the country. These grievances will then be submitted to the national commission for protection of child rights (NCPCR) and state commission for protection of child rights (SCPCRs) for immediate action. The forum, they said, also plans to move the court against them. A memorandum will also be submitted to the prime minister with a charter of demands.

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