‘Political will can make RTE a reality’

NCPCR conducted the post-facto social audit, a pilot project, in 10 states on implementation of RTE

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | November 1, 2011


#Right to Education   #RTE   #Education   #Children   #RTE Act  


Kiran Bhatty is the national coordinator of the Right to Education Act with National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). She has worked in the field of education for several years and was earlier associated with the UNICEF. In an interview with Jasleen Kaur, she talks about the post-facto social audit, a pilot project, which is being conducted in 10 states, and of implementation of the RTE Act. Bhatty says though in many states lot of paperwork for implementing the law has been done, an effort to take it to the grassroots level is still missing. If the political will is exercised to the optimum level, she adds, only then the dream to universalise education by 2015 can be achieved. Excerpts from the interview:

First of all, why the post-facto social audit of the RTE Act?

The objective is to get education officers at block and district levels take up responsibility (and fix accountability) for the functioning of schools. One part of the exercise is to make people involved directly in the monitoring and the other part is to get the administrative level close to people and also ensure that they start taking responsibility. We are running the pilot project in 10 states where we tied up with various civil society groups, which had a good understanding of the ground reality. Through them, people were involved to give feedback on functioning of schools and on the implementation of RTE Act.

What is the general assessment emerging out of this audit?

Education is now a fundamental right and each year is important in the lifetime of a child’s education. But the law is really seeking to change the whole system of education and that change cannot be effected in a short time. So while recognising that their rights are important and urgent, one must also take steps in a way that it does not have any counter-effects either. But I think a very good beginning has been made and the response, I would say, both from the community and the administration has been positive. For us that is the biggest hope.

How are the states performing in the implementation of the Act?

In general, in most state capitals, at least, a lot of paperwork, like state rules, aligning of SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan), new norms, recruitment of teachers, has started. But at the grassroots level, where things haven’t moved that fast, more eforts are required.
Many states have had one round of training for teachers as well as for the district- and block-level education officers. But that’s not enough.

You spoke about teachers’ recruitment. What are the states doing on that front?

Shortage of teachers is a problem across all states. In UP and Bihar, it is really huge — in lakhs. Qualification norms have been laid down and you cannot hire untrained teachers. To find that number of trained teachers and put them into system is going to take time.

Is there a need to change the entire teachers’ training programme?

Yes, there is and it will happen over a period of time. The next thing that is being looked at is teachers’ training institutes, right from BEd to the pre-service trainings. It is important to change the curriculum for teachers’ education, sensitise them and change their mindsets – whether it’s to do with children from different castes, communities or gender, or teachers’ conduct in the classroom.

What are the major hurdles you faced?

The idea of education being made a constitutional right will gain ground only if you have a well-designed grievance redress system. We have taken one small step in this direction where all the education secretaries were called for a workshop in Delhi and some discussions were held. They were asked to go back to their states and work out different levels of responsibilities that would be there in the education structure for different entitlements.

How are states responding to issues like out-of-school children, especially those who are involved in child labour?

The commission has also taken up the position that it wants to use the RTE Act to bring about further change in the child labour laws. Presently, the law makes distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous labour. We feel that is a very spurious distinction. And kids, especially up to the age of 14, should not be doing any kind of work and they should be in school. Earlier, national child labour programme (NCLP) dealt with such cases. But the RTE Act makes the NCLP redundant. Some states, like Maharashtra, have decided to relook at that and to start getting children back into school. So far, a system of tracking out-of-school kids is not in place, but as some case comes up, it is readily dealt with.

After the audit, do you think it is feasible to achieve universalisation of education by 2015?

That is a difficult question to answer since time is short. But I think if everybody chips in and political will is exercised to the optimum level, we can achieve it.

Even when the basic facilities are not there in schools?

That’s true. But the pressure is slowly building up and one of the purposes of this social audit to keep the pressure on. The central government also wants to launch a very big campaign to spread awareness. The next couple of years will be fairly crucial.

In the audit, which states came across as the best performers and which really need a push?

Andhra Pradesh has responded well to the audit. The will to bring about change is very much there in the state government and the administration is very well-disposed towards doing those things. Definitely Andhra Pradesh has been most responsive in many ways. Rajasthan and Bihar are also trying, but the change isn’t showing at the ground level. But at least they are keen to get the community involvement in this.

At district level, Amravati in Maharashtra is doing good. On the whole, all the states have been fairly responsive, but it is a very early stage. They need to keep up the good work.

Delhi is one of the least responsive states. But we have had a round of meetings and now they are willing to.

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