Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Right to Education Bill - What right path to implement?

Sometimes, I wonder and ponder over the fact that I am born in that country which was the origin of the greatest mathematicians, scholars, scientists, doctors and many more professionals who lived and contributed to the entire mankind so much that we continue to live on these. Our Nalanda University (presently in Bihar) or Taxila (the present day SWAT region in Pakistan) was the hub where even the Chinese, Greeks, Romans came and learnt because the literacy and competency level we had was so high. Since our independence in 1947, we have tried, but struggled to make even a literacy rate of 70%. This is purely because of the absysmal implementation of literacy missions and govt schools.

Perhaps, there was no legal cover to education. In 2002, during Vajpayee's govt 86th amendement was made that made education a fundamental right, but failed to come up with details of the law. In a historic move, the UPA govt passed the Right to Education Bill with more or less unanimous consensus from all parties. Good. The implications or the effect of this legislation and its salient features include as given in the picture (courtesy: Telegraph newspaper)

There are interesting provisions that can easily become loopholes too. For example, there is this provision of a creation of a school in neighbourhood. If the child doesn't have one, then private schools must set up one or govt sets up one. This is the easiest where Govt's record could be the worst. This is because the incharge officers may not even bother to set up a school and even if set up, the infrastructure would be so pathethic that teachers may also run away. Just look at the hygeine of govt schools. The children may just run away. Look at the way meals are prepared in most govt schools ( as a part of Mid day meal ). They use inferior raw materials, rotten vegetables and cook food. Millions of children across the country have such food every day and no law and no govt comes to their rescue. Charging extra fees or donations is against law..but who follows? None. So, the punishment provision in the new bill is at best left undiscussed.

Further, there is a provision that a citizen may complain to the neighborhood officer and the officer may choose to act. This is the funniest part. How many officers who are appointed to this post would be honest? Very very few. If this is the nature, reliability has vanished even before the Act has become a full fledged law.

Excepting for Kendriya Vidyalayas and probably a few more, Govt schools are really not in any good shape conducive to any student, forget a teacher. Just look at this article that explains stinking toilets in Chandigarh schools.

This is another article that explains girls drop out is highest where there is no basic toilets/bathrooms for them. Although Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan started by Vajpayee Govt talks of teacher student partnership in cleaning and maintaining schools, no one follows it.

Actually in 2002 after a fiery debate Education was made a fundamental right.

Given these sad realities, we need to change the way govt schools run. For this, private companies and corporations must be given in charge to build schools, provide infrastructure ( of course with govt money) and recruit teachers. The Govt must pay teachers and not corporations/companies. Any issues w.r.t maintenance must be given to such private ones. Complete privatization would dinimish distinction between govt and private schools and private schools demand high donation fees. This deprives many students to enter the reliable private schools. Implementing schools this way will at least attract students to school and also would ensure they will compete with private ones.

Unless implementation of such laws is not given to people outside the Parliamentary circle, it is difficult to see them really transform the society.

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