Sunday, April 14, 2013

Many schools in Maharashtra still lack basic facilities

Many schools in Maharashtra still lack basic facilities

Swati Shinde Gole, TNN Mar 31, 2013, 05.46AM IST

PUNE: The deadline for states to implement key provisions of the Right to Education Act in schools lapses today, but much remains to be done in Maharashtra. Schools in the state still lack basic facilities including drinking water and toilets, as indicated in a recent survey, even as two bodies critical to the Act's implementation remain non-functional, with one defunct and another yet to be constituted.
Activists say that the state had two years to implement the provisions of RTE, after it was enacted. The Union human resource development ministry had set March 31 as the deadline for at least nine key provisions of the Act to be implemented, which included drinking water facilities, separate toilets for boys and girls and libraries.

The survey, conducted by Pratham, had found 40% of the state schools had toilets but they were not useable and over 30% operating without drinking water.
Two bodies — state commission for protection for child rights and the state advisory council — had been identified as watchdogs of the Act's implementation but while the commission is defunct since December 2011 with its tenure not renewed, the council was never formed. The commission was empowered not only to monitor the progress of the Act's implementation but also inquire into RTE-related complaints while the state advisory council's main role was to advise the state government on effective implementation of the Act. State representative for RTE, Suryakant Kulkarni, said that the state government was alerted on this issue several times but officials did not take it seriously. "If the implementing agency does not exist, how will the state meet its deadline," he said.
RTE status
State still does not meet student-teacher ratio of 1:35 No toilets in 40% of state schools No drinking water in 30% of state schools Number of libraries has dropped by 3.5% since last year Bodies identified to monitor RTE implementation in state defunct
State schools score poorly on basic facilities
The state has scored rather poorly on various parameters of the Right to Education Act with several schools still not complying with the mandated teacher-pupil ratio, even as others have failed to provide drinking water on their premises. The survey also found that while some facilities had been introduced in schools, they were not functional.
The ministry of human resource and development had set a deadline of March 31 to improve the quality of schools for every state by upgrading their facilities in compliance with nine key provisions of RTE (see box) including drinking facility, libraries, toilets, building among others. However, a survey conducted by NGO Pratham has highlighted that it would be a long wait before all schools in the state are RTE compliant.
The state government had earlier admitted that it would not be able to meet the deadline.
While the data collected by Pratham is up to December 2012, officials said it was unlikely that there would have been any significant changes in the last three months. Uma Rane, training director, NGO Pratham, said, "The picture may have not changed much in the state in the last three months. We have comparative data starting from the year 2010, when the RTE Act was enacted and the level of improvement is abysmal."
According to the report, 7.2 % of the state's schools did not have a separate toilet for girls. It was reported in the survey that many schools had separate toilets for girls but they were locked. "Some stark realities were discovered during this survey such as newly constructed toilets being locked, drinking facility installed but no water, absolutely no provision for a library among others," Rane said.

She further added that, "Even if on paper the facilities are present, it may not entirely help the end need of students as toilets cannot be used and there's no water to drink." The survey highlighted that 13.7 % schools in the state did not have a library at all, 3.5 % drop from the 2011 figure.
John Kurrien, senior educationist and RTE activist, said, "Very few were aware of the complexity of the task ahead in trying to implement the RTE Act when it was enacted in 2010. However, two years later, when the state has struggled to meet the deadline it seems that the implementation has fallen far short of the act's ambitious and revolutionary goals."
The state still does not meet the teacherstudent ratio of 1:35 as per the provisions of the RTE. Kurrien said, "This should have been the first target of the state government as far as compliance was concerned. There are hundreds of schools in the state even today that have 60 or more students in one class. With so many students, a teacher can only manage the crowd, not educate. There are many posts still vacant which need to be filled at the earliest to solve the problem."
Maharashtra has a total of 3.4 lakh sanctioned posts for teachers under the Sarva Shikshan Abhiyan Scheme, of which 32,746 were vacant.

Former project director of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Vijay Kadam said less than 10 % of the state's schools would have 100 % compliance with all the indicators of RTE. "The challenge is not only to build new infrastructure, but also to make the existing infrastructure useable. The state had about two years to plan and implement the RTE provisions, but I am afraid if it has achieved even half of it." Kadam further said, "It is not only Maharashtra that has missed the deadline. But, it will be interesting to see how much percentage was achieved by each state once the report is released. That report will really underline the success of the RTE Act."

RTE monitors only on paper
The deadline for implementing the Right to Education Act ends today, Sunday, but two bodies critical to the act's implementation are non-functional in the state. While the tenure of Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) has not been renewed since December 2011, the state advisory council has not even been formed till date.
The advisory council's main role was to advice the state government on effective implementation of the act, and it had to be formed within six months of the RTE Act coming into effect (which was in 2010-11 ). The SCPCR too had a big role to play in every state, including monitoring and ensuring that all laws, policies, programmes, and administrative mechanisms were in tune with the rights of the child (see box). The SCPCR was given the power to act even without a complaint and investigate, summon and recommend cases to court.
State representative for RTE, Suryakant Kulkarni, said that the state government was alerted on this issue several times but they did not take it seriously. "It is the government's duty to form the council so as to implement it. If the implementing agency does not exist, how will the state meet its deadline. To make matters worse, the monitoring agency is also non-existent in the state," said Kulkarni. He added that SCPCR's previous committee's tenure had expired 15 months ago and the government had failed to appoint a new one.
When contacted, state secretary for education J S Saharia said he was completely unaware of the fact that SCPCR came under the RTE Act. He said, "It is not out duty to form SCPCR and it does not come under my department." When questioned about the advisory council, Saharia said, "We are in the process of forming this council and are in the final stages."
Tapas Sutradhar, RTE activist and coordinator of Action for Rights of Children, a city-based NGO said, "This shows how lax the government is in implementing the act. The basics of the act are not in place. How would it (state) meet the deadline if the monitoring and implementing agencies are absent?"
The March 31 deadline for implementing RTE was set by the Union Ministry of Human Resource and Development, but the state is yet to formalise a plan of action on its implementation now that the deadline has lapsed.

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