Friday, January 24, 2014

Government seeks volunteers to monitor schools

Government seeks volunteers to monitor schools

TNN Jan 5, 2014, 02.41AM IST

NEW DELHI: Education minister Manish Sisodia wants to ensure that everything is in place when children return to school after the winter vacation-functioning toilets, drinking water, clean premises and teachers in the classroom. And he is counting on citizen monitors to achieve this.
A late-evening statement on Saturday said, "Manish Sisodia has devised an innovative method for monitoring government schools. A team of volunteers will be created and they will visit schools daily to keep an eye on toilets, water supply, sanitation and attendance of teachers. They will report to the education minister daily". The minister told TOI on phone: "Anyone can join and they need not be AAP volunteers. There are already many who, of their own accord, are keeping a watch over schools in their area. They keep filing RTIs".
This volunteer-driven monitoring system, however, is likely to be a temporary measure. The Right to Education Act 2009 already contains a provision for community participation in the running of schools through School Management Committees (SMCs). These have parents, school officials and "elected representatives of local authority" on board. And the rules formulated by the state further require one member to be "a social worker involved in the field of education". The Act also stipulates that the school development plans (SDPs) be formulated by SMCs. This aspect of the RTE Act, however, was enforced only in early 2013 when the deadline for implementation was coming up. Activists complain that SMCs have been shoddily assembled and barely function in most schools.
"I have full confidence in the SMC system," said Sisodia, "But we require a strong monitoring system urgently. The RTE-mandated measures are permanent ones. The volunteers will make sure that when the children go back after the vacations, the schools are ready to receive them".
Saurabh Sharma from the NGO Josh said the move is in the right direction but Sisodia should ensure that the volunteers are locals. He said the system will work better if schools are inspected even during term time, and as a long-term measure the SMCs should be strengthened.
"The SMCs have no powers beyond registering complaints. If they do, the principals can just forward them to the districts' deputy directors. This is an excellent opportunity for the government to give the SMCs teeth and put in place an effective mechanism for redress of grievances."

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