RTE: a far cry for children in violence-hit areas

Home ministry report says 260 schools have been destroyed in states affected due to Naxal violence in 5 years

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | December 10, 2012



Right to education may have become a reality for some but there are many still out of its ambit. These are children belonging to areas affected by civil strife, who continue to face absence of schools and teachers in their localities.

The reports of the 14th and 15th joint review mission of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) had recommended the need to understand the challenges in these areas and work out strategies to address these for implementation of RTE. The NCPCR has also consistently highlighted the issue through its interventions like the Bal Bandhu programme. But Professor R Govinda, Vice Chancellor, NUEPA says there is no clear cut strategy to work for children living in abnormal conditions.

“UN statistics show that there has been a considerable increase in number of children affected by violence in recent years globally. These children are left out from the purview of RTE and we cannot even classify them as drop outs,” he said.

Govinda who was addressing the two-day national consultation on education in areas affected by civil strife, jointly organized by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), National University of Educational Planning & Administration (NUEPA) and UNICEF in Delhi.

He added that it is not just important to enroll and retain children in schools but it is equally important how they are dealt with. “We need to re-think in terms of treatment given to these children once they are in school,” he said.

According to an annual report by the ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), three locations widely considered as affected by varying degree of civil strife in India. These are parts of central India affected by Maoist activities, Kashmir and some parts of north east.

Reports of destruction and militarization of school buildings is reported in all these areas. As per a home ministry’s report, 260 schools have been destroyed in Naxal violence in Maoist affected states in last 5 years. The highest number of schools hit by Naxal violence was in Chhattisgarh (131), followed by Jharkhand (63) and Bihar (46).

Also, there are reports which cite instances in Jharkhand and Bihar, where inspite of court orders security forces were occupying government school buildings as bases for carrying out anti-naxalite operations.

Teacher’s recruitment and retention also remains a big challenge as most are reluctant to take up posts in these areas. In Kashmir, for example, a number of primary and middle schools have been built in the last few years, but recruitment of teachers remains a big issue.

The UNESCO’s Education For All (EFA) Global monitoring report (2011) says that 28 million children in the primary age group, 42 percent of the world’s total out of school children, come from conflict areas.

While considerable efforts have been made at the national and the state levels for RTE implementation, still there are challenges in reaching the most marginalized children living in areas of civil strife.

Shantha Sinha, Chairperson NCPCR discussed strategies for implementing the Right to Education in such areas. She said implementation of RTE will be further strengthened if agencies and departments of child protection, health, security and law work together in these areas.

“There are schools, Ashrams, scholarships and bridge course programmes available in such areas, but all these are largely unutilized. Some work has started for implementing RTE in some areas, but it is still at the stage of developing the culture and habit among children to go to school,” she said.
Sinha emphasized that education is a neutral agenda and is concerned neither with the police nor with the armed group. “It just has to do with children. We should not just focus on providing education upto 14 years but we must ensure the safety till they turn 18.”

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