Lack of effective implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act has led to discontent among lawyers, academicians, NGOs and the general public alike.
Nothwithstanding the ignorant attitude of the enforcers, Prof R.Govinda, Vice Chancellor of National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), New Delhi, said, “RTE is a fundamental right but yet we needed a law to bring it into the mainstream. We can’t be sure anymore if it was a political move. The Act has taken long enough to at least start proving its worth.”
Even though the RTE is praised by lawmakers, its effectiveness hasn’t stood the test of time. “The exceptions that have been carved out in earlier SC judgements like exemption from the 25% quota to admit children from disadvantaged groups in unaided private minority schools and aided private minority schools, resulted in drawbacks to a certain extent. In this regard, how much effective would litigation prove to be to improve the efficiency of RTE, is difficult to state,” said Jayna Kothari, Advocate and Founder member, Centre for Law and Policy Research, Banglore.
The Act was included as a fundamental right in 2002, when Article 21A was inserted in the Constitution. Article 21A casts an obligation on the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years. Section12 of the RTE Act mandates that all unaided private schools and aided private schools must fill 25% of their student strength in Class I with children from weaker and disadvantaged sections of society.
Annie Namala, Executive Director of Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion, New Delhi, said, “The schedule has failed to address the challenges exclusive to children from discriminated sections of society. The Ministry of Human Resources Development has failed to bring under its purview these children. The current situation is such that a tribal child will go to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, a child from a labourer’s family will go to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, etc. These ministries are not expert on education, the MHRD is. That is why a greater responsibility rests on the MHRD. The equity measures that talk about an inclusive approach haven’t been of much help because there is no format to guide RTE on this. We have a significant number of NGOs working across hamlets, if we are to try make good use of them, they hold a lot of potential and the current existing gaps could be bridged.”
Emphasising on the lack of co-ordination between the Centre and the state, Prof Govinda said, “Often the state governments brush aside the responsibility saying that it is an Act brought by the Centre hence they should be obliged with its implementation. There is a list of minimum selective indicators in the RTE schedule that must be complied by all schools and yet hardly 10% of the schools adhere to it.”
“SC should set up a monitoring committee. Parliament must seek for an annual report on the status of RTE. Identifying the role of the Centre and the state and defining their duties will help in clearing the current fog that looms overhead,” Govinda said.