Friday, January 24, 2014

Delhi worst in setting up school management committees

Delhi worst in setting up school management committees

Shreya Roy Chowdhury, TNN Jan 9, 2014, 12.09AM IST

NEW DELHI: AAP government may not have had to recruit a group of volunteers to inspect government schools if School Management Committees - statutory bodies mandated by the Right to Education Act 2009 -had been formed and running properly. But Delhi has the worst record of all states for establishing SMCs; the guidelines for setting these were issued on March 25, 2013, six days before the deadline for the implementation of the Act.
As per the data gathered through District Information System for Education and compiled into 'DISE Flash Statistics 2012-13,' (released in November 2013), only 6.93% of Delhi's government and aided schools had constituted SMCs by September 2012. In West Bengal, which had the second worst record, 51.05% schools had SMCs and in Goa, 51.83%. Once the guidelines were issued, SMCs were hastily assembled by schools and in nearly all cases, selection wasn't through election.
Activists say education minister Manish Sisodia's willingness to involve the general public in school-governance - SMCs were meant to do just that - is a positive sign but a set of volunteers is not the solution. "A parallel system won't work in the long term," says Rajiv Kumar of NGO Pardarshita who's also SMC-member of three schools. "The government should focus on a mechanism for time-bound redress of grievances, on ensuring SMCs are formed through transparent and fair elections and that they meet regularly."
The importance accorded to SMCs is evident from the fact that RTE Act leaves the formulation of School Development Plans (SDP) to them.
Toward the end of 2013, Pardarshita had filed a batch of questions under the RTI Act asking 16 schools to furnish minutes of SMC meetings and SDPs. Only three had met more than once; only one had met thrice; none had a proper SDP in place. "Some sent us minutes of meetings as SDPs," says Kumar, "Funds are supposed to be released on the basis of SDPs but no mechanism has been devised to take them into consideration."
SMCs, activists feel, have practically been designed to fail. Their weaknesses have been built into their structures. They say principals, being chairpersons, have randomly selected members, preferring 'netas'. Parents, says Kumar, don't want to stick their necks out and speak up.
Moreover, says JOSH's Saurabh Sharma, "members don't know what to do". "They have the power only to recommend and there's no guarantee the department will take action. They may inspect and register complaint but most often it only gets forwarded," says Sharma.
The SMCs have also been left oddly vulnerable. "They may complain about the quality of mid-day meal with no action being taken but the moment kids fall ill, they'll be blamed," says Sharma. Make the recommendations binding, suggest both Kumar and Sharma, that way even members feel their views matter.

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