Monday, May 6, 2013

Delhi parents use RTE to send kids to a closer school

Delhi parents use RTE to send kids to a closer school

Shreya Roy Chowdhury, TNN May 4, 2013, 10.23PM IST

NEW DELHI: To hear the students describe it, the near-7km journey to secondary school in Tughlaqabad is an odyssey beset with a variety of dangers - errant auto-walas, major roads with heavy traffic, sexual harassment. Many opt out. Nearly 1,400 complete fifth grade from two municipal primary schools in I and F2 blocks of Sangam Vihar every year, and, till last session, nearly 500 would drop out immediately after; the school where they started sixth grade is 6.8km away. But armed with the knowledge of the RTE Act, parents demanded - and won -- the right to send their kids to a school closer to home.

Shanno lost her only daughter, Sufiya Khan in an accident in February 2010. Students living in the interiors of Sangam Vihar took the auto till the main road - the fearsome Ratiya Marg - and bus it from there. Sufiya's auto make a particularly reckless turn, she fell out and the auto fell on her. She was killed instantly. Urmila simply can't afford the cost of travel - Rs. 30 per day for one child. She has four. Most families make their living through tailoring. Shivani and Prianka, both in Class VII, haven't dropped out yet but go to school infrequently. "We go two days in a week," says Shivani, "We aren't taught anything anyway." The girls complain of harassment by autowalas. "They drive real close and sometimes try to even hit us deliberately," says Prianka.
It's not a new problem. Area councilor Kalpana Jha says they've faced these issues in varying degrees for over two decades. "About 500 girls drop out every year and there are at least 10 road accidents involving children on their way to or back from school," says Jha. She adds that while she's tried to change things, parents campaigned only during admission times. Last year, the I block school became of interest to NGO Childreach International. In collaboration with another NGO, Nav Srishti, they ran awareness programmes among the locals. Once the parents knew their rights, it didn't take them long register demands with the authorities.
The RTE Act requires primary students (till Class V) attend a school within 1km and upper primary (Class VI to VIII) onwards, 3km from home - a provision in conflict with the feeder-school system which requires children to go to a school situated in the same municipal zone they stay in. The Tughlaqabad school, despite being at too large a distance for 11 year-olds to cover on their own, absorbed students living in over a dozen Sangam Vihar blocks as they are all in the same -- Central -- zone. On March 13, the Directorate of Education ordered these students be absorbed into the secondary school in J-Block of Sangam Vihar -- in South Zone but within three kilometers.
The J block school already draws students from municipal schools in three Sangam Vihar blocks. But the splitting of the co-ed school into two shifts for boys and girls has created some room. Jha says the area needs at least three schools before all the students can be comfortable and a suitable environment for studying can be created. Childreach's Neeru Chaudhary concedes that there will be a problem of crowding at the newly assigned school but they, along with Jha, are already working on infrastructure-development.

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