Monday, April 22, 2013

RTE Act: RHETORIC VERSUS REALITY


Published On: Sun, Mar 31st, 2013

RTE Act: RHETORIC VERSUS REALITY

April 1, 2013 marks the three years of Right To Education (RTE) Act implementation in our country. It is mentioned in the Act that all the norms and standards of RTE Act will be fulfilled within three years of the commencement of the Act. March 31, 2013 is the deadline for fulfilling all the norms. But, free, compulsory and quality elementary education for every child in public schools has not been fulfilled. Fortunately, Orissa was the second State after Sikkim to form rules on RTE Act but flaws and lopsided implementation have stood far from the desired targets.
As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2012, 96 per cent of all children in the 6 to 14 years age group in rural Orissa were enrolled in schools out of which 89.6 per cent were enrolled in public schools. As per Section 12 of RTE Act, the school and Mass Education Department has issued orders to all private unaided schools to admit in entry level classes at least 25 per cent children belonging to economically weaker section but this has gone wallow as there is no system to reimburse the school fees charged by the schools yet.
Issues of teachers
The issues of teachers in our State are many. The State has over 35,928 primary schools and 20,427 upper primary schools. Out of the total teacher strength of 1,67,948, some 79,715 no. of teachers are either Sikshya Sahayaka or Ganasikshaka. The recent phenomenon of recruiting contractual teachers instead of regular teachers has badly affected classroom teaching. The salaries of the contractual teachers are generally a fraction of the salary of regular teachers. Each of the around 7,000 elementary schools of our State is run by a single teacher. As a fallout, teachers are demonstrating throughout the year. Teachers’ absenteeism is also a major cause which affects teaching in classrooms. Again, the school is a dream for 4,560 villages in our State.
Orissa is a tribal dominated State. There are 11 primitive tribal groups who have no access to other language except their local dialects. A high level committee of the State Government had decided to make available textbooks and create teachers post in tribal languages in order to mainstream them into schools, but this has not been given due weightage for the reason best known to them.
Status of the State as per
RTE Compliance
According to the data revealed by the Orissa Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA), Orissa has been lagging behind from being an RTE compliant State. Thirteen per cent of school classrooms, 66 per cent in terms of girls’ toilet in schools, 46 per cent in building ramp, 74 per cent in opening library in schools and 66 per cent in building boundary wall have not been complied with RTE norms in elementary level. In order to fulfill the needs of teachers as per the norms, the State has to fill up the vacancy of around 13,000 teachers in schools.
Budgetary allocation and spending
In 2012-13, there was an allocation of Rs 6,525.40 crore for education in the State which has been increased subsequently. But if we compare the increase with the inflation and increased share of child population in a year, the increase pales into insignificance. There is under-utilisation of SSA funds. While Rs 2,680 crore was allocated for SSA, only 50 per cent has been spent till December 2012. Last year, an allocation of Rs 94.43 lakh was made for school libraries; only 28.70 per cent of the funds have been spent. While Rs 80.61 crore was allocated under Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV), our State has been able to spend only Rs 23.72 crore. The percentage of fund utilisation till December 2012 was 83.7 with respect to fund available and 49.99 per cent with respect to Annual Work Plan and Budget. In the field of infrastructure, 51.80 per cent of fund has been utilised and 67.95 per cent of fund utilisation has been witnessed in textbook supply. Similarly, the Government’s target was to provide drinking water facilities to 5,972 schools last year but not even a single school had been provided drinking water facilities till January 2013. Therefore, under-utilisation and lack of monitoring mechanism have given birth to a huge gap between budgeted expenditure and actual spending in education.
Challenges and loopholes
Despite some initiatives taken in our State to perk up the standard of elementary education, there are several challenges ahead if education is really to see its step up. Quality learning at classrooms in public schools is still a far cry. Knowledge on basic arithmetic, numeric counting, class-wise learning capacity of school children in our State are very scary. The institutional support mechanism and policy reform have not been addressed properly, because there should be a State level advisory committee on education which has not yet been formed. In order to tackle the problems of child labour, juveniles in conflict with laws and street children, there must be a convergence to monitor these issues and mainstream the deprived children into schools. The State Government has not yet defined out of school children in the RTE Rules which means the Government does not want to enroll them.
School Management Committee and local authority had been seen as tools for school governance in RTE Act but their performance is not yet agreeable for effective school management and bringing children into schools respectively. Therefore, the State Government must make necessary arrangements to ensure their actual participation in school management. The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) has been formed to protect the children against violation of their rights but the performance of the SCPCR is very poor. The State Government has no solid data on the number of child labourers as there is no survey undertaken on child labour after 1997. Orissa has ranked one in missing children cases in India which is a major issue of concern. Looking at these inefficiencies, can we say that RTE Act has really turned out to be a justiciable right for the children?
Naba Kishor Pujari

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