The Writing On The wall

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The RTE Act has been a tough learning curve for all stakeholders. Here’s a chronicle of their experiences

This summer, many parents in urban India are worried about whether the 25 percent quota for underprivileged children in private schools will snatch away their child’s right to an education. In nearby slums, parents of children with little or no schooling are feeling hopeful that the 12 April Supreme Court order to allow their children into private schools will entitle them to a better future. However, this is only one small slice of the complicated Right to Education (RTE) story.

Many parents are not aware that RTE enables every child between ages 6 and 14 the right to a free education of a certain basic minimum quality. They don’t know that RTE entitles them to form management committees and set goals for their child’s school and monitor the use of funds. And that Panchayati Raj institutions at the block, district and village levels are the redressal mechanisms to go to if a teacher hits a child or doesn’t turn up for work.

While much has been written about RTE in the past two years since Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal proudly announced its enactment, the people it is meant to serve haven’t had enough space to say what they have been through. How many kids who are struggling under the lamplight and in the dark are really getting to learn to read and write? How many that did crash through that glass ceiling successfully integrate with kids with cars and iPods? What has that interaction produced? These pages won’t have all the answers. But they do chronicle some very telling experiences. Of parents and children and also educationists, all grappling with the brave new idea of the RTE and its various failings on the ground.

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RTE BASICS

When It Was Enforced
From April 2010

Who It Applies To
Children Between The Ages Of 6-14

Does Not Apply To
Children In Jammu & Kashmir

RADICAL FEATURES
Where a child has had no elementary education, s/he will be admitted in an age appropriate class and have the right to remedial classes to catch up

No child can be denied promotion or expelled until s/he is in primary school

Parents are to form school management committees to decide the school development plan and monitor the working of the school

THE DISMAL STANDARDS THE RTE WAS SET UP TO CORRECT

40%
of children in Class VIII can only read a Class II textbook in rural India

20-25%
of children from Class I-VIII take tuitions after school

51%
of rural schools have usable toilets

12 LAKH*
Shortfall of primary school teachers

93 PERCENT
Number of teachers who failed the Central Teachers Eligibility Test 2012

* (Last available estimate of 2010)

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‘Now, studying has a different meaning. Studying means I’m learning to become a gentleman
Sidhu Yadav | 17 | Student
Sarvodaya Vidyalaya, Jor Bagh, New Delhi Read More >

 

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‘The pace of change has been slower than what was expected or desired’
Kiran Bhatty | 46 | Policy Maker 
Former National Coordinator, National Commission For the Protection Of Child Rights Read More >

 

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‘There is no water, forget education. Almost every house in our village has dropouts’
Minu Sangma | 38 | Parent 
Kinangaon, Boko, Assam Read More >

 

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‘I want to help my father find a better place to live’
Kritika Raveendran | 12 | Student 
Govindapuram Government Upper Primary School, Kozhikode, Kerala Read More >

 

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‘The teacher struck my daughter’s name off the rolls’
Premlata | 30 | Parent
New Sanjay Camp, New Delhi Read More >

 

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‘The State is abdicating its responsibility’
Annie Koshy | 46 | Principal 
St Mary’s School, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi Read More >

 

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‘There is a streetlight under which I study in the evening’
Kumar Pillai | 14 | Student
Nityanand Marg Kannada School, Mumbai Read More >

 

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‘Sometimes, I don’t understand what my teachers teach’ 
Danish Mushtaq | 9 | Student 
Usmania Public School, Srinagar Read More >

 

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‘We give free education to students based on the economic condition of their parents. We do this voluntarily.’
Sheikh Ghulam Mohiudin, Principal
Dr Iqbal Public School, Baramulla, Kashmir Read More >

 

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‘My mother said that I didn’t have to go to school anymore. I was happy’
Sanjay | 11 | Former student, Jheel School
Bhalaswa, New Delhi Read More >

 

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‘I liked the teachers, but my other classmates used to beat me up’
Raju Dutta | 6 | Former Student 
Guwahati, Assam Read More >

 

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‘Will the RTE deliver free education for our children?’
Roma | 30 | Parent 
New Delhi Read More >

 

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 ‘School is a lot better than being here on the road’
Mahalaxmi Ashok Arijat | 15 | Student
Our Lady of Health High School, Mumbai Read More >

 

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‘I was scared that if I complained I might get thrown out of school’
Javed | 16 | Student 
St Mary’s School, New Delhi Read More >

 

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‘I was going to a madrassa earlier, but I didn’t like it there’
Jane Alam | 14 | Student 
Jahangirpuri, New Delhi Read More >

 

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 ‘Had such rules been in place when I was of their age, I could have been educated too’
Dipali Mushahary | 26 | Parent
Garchuk, Kamrup district, Assam Read More >

 

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‘I don’t study much at school. Teachers often do not hold classes’
Asiya | 9 | Student 
Baramulla, Kashmir Read More >

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