Interview with Delhi education minister Arvind Singh 'Lovely'
Jasleen Kaur | May 18, 2011
It’s been a year since the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act came into existence. But many states are yet to notify the rules and start work in this regard. According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the government body monitoring the implementation of the law, the national capital too has not done enough groundwork. State education minister Arvinder Singh Lovely, in an interview with Governance Now, counters the assessment and says Delhi is doing better than all states on several parameters. Excerpts from the interview:
It’s been a year since the RTE Act has been implemented. You have got five years to fully implement it. How has been the progress so far in Delhi?
Delhi is the only state implementing RTE not only till class 8 but till class 12. We have notified the rules. We are already following the no-detention policy. The teacher-pupil ratio in our schools is 1:40, which no other state has. And it is perhaps the only state which has no single unqualified teacher.
So you are saying that the state has done its part for the law.
I am not saying that everything is perfect. There are problems. In certain schools in areas like Trilokpuri or other re-settlement or unauthorised colonies, there is a problem of high enrolment. We have even 100 children in a classroom because there is scarcity of land and unfortunately that is not in our hands. We have been regularly writing to the central government for changing the land allotment policy. I am happy with the new minister of urban development (Kamal Nath), as they (the minister and his colleagues) are working to change the land allotment policy. So we don’t have land at some places and we cannot even deny admissions to children. The best solution we have is to accommodate as many children as we can.
What about issues like no availability of drinking water and toilets in schools?
As far as drinking water is concerned, if there is problem in any school, it is merely because of the inefficiency of the principal. Many MLAs approached us and we have provided them water (facilities). Every principal has a fund of the Vidyalaya Grant Committee which is totally at the disposal of the principal. They can easily spend it on drinking water, on repairing lights, windows. They can address such small issues with that money. We have regular meetings with MLAs and we have been visiting schools also. There can be some particular school which is facing this problem, but by and large drinking water and toilets are available in schools.
An NGO organised a public hearing in east Delhi in April during which parents and children told NCPCR officials about problems they faced in schools. NCPCR said that the state of education in the national capital was in a bad shape and that officers in the education department were not sensitive to the issue. Your comments?
NCPCR, rather than doing lok adalats, should come to us and point out where we are lacking. The fact that education officers went to the lok adalats itself shows how sensitive they are. Otherwise they are not expected to go there. The commission should go and visit the schools and point out the problems rather than organising such adalats. We have the Delhi commission (Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights), if they find there is something wrong they should approach them.
NCPCR is responsible for monitoring schools of the whole country. Have they tried to find out whether Noida in UP has implemented the act or not? Delhi has started the work which other states haven’t. But if they have any concrete suggestion, we are all open for that and we will really implement it and will be thankful to them.
What are the major challenges ahead?
Our children have been performing really well. They have been in the best category. Due to the improvement in the performance of the government schools more and more students want to take admission here. And it has added to the enrolment number to a large extent. We had seven lakh students five years ago and now we have 13 lakh students. So it takes time to implement RTE and even otherwise, we have five years to implement it fully. No state has till date created vacancies for teachers but we have created 14,000 vacancies for teachers. And if you see our track record, we have opened a new school every 25 days.
How do you plan to ensure that street children go to school?
The social welfare department is planning to open residential schools for street children, beggars and orphans. We have already identified the land. This will be on the pattern of the school (known as) ‘tribals in Bhubaneswar’. And we are already running three-four schools for street children which have been given to NGOs.
The planning commission has proposed double shifts in public schools in Delhi to increase the number of seats. Is that feasible?
There is a problem with double shift in public schools. Wherever it is feasible we are ready to implement it. But most schools have extracurricular activities after school hours, so it is not possible to have double shifts in them. This was meant for an optimum use of land. But our experience says that children in single-shift schools perform much better. We are neither ruling it out nor are we opting for it.
How strong is the grievance redressal system in Delhi for handling complaints related to the RTE?
We have a strong grievance redressal system. We have our deputy director in each district and there are other officers as well. Our whole department is online. I personally get 50-100 complaints daily and we respond to them.
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