|BASANT KUMAR MOHANTY|
New Delhi, Nov. 2: Jammu and Kashmir is poised to make education a fundamental right for its children more than three years after such a right was enforced on the ground in the rest of India.
The state, which enjoys special status under the Constitution, has decided to amend its own constitution and pass a new law replacing the Jammu and Kashmir School Education Act, 2002, to implement this right. (See chart)
“The (2002) state law does provide for free and compulsory education for children aged between five and 14 but is silent on how it can be ensured,” Bashir Dar, a member of the state’s advisory board on school education, told The Telegraph.
“That law did not specify the responsibilities of the state, which is under no compulsion to provide schools and teachers. Now the state government has decided to (largely) adopt the provisions of the central Right to Education Act and make education a fundamental right.”
The bill is likely to come up in the Assembly in the next budget session.
Parliament had passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, popularly known as the Right To Education (RTE) Act, in 2009 and enforced it in April 2010. It says every child aged six to 14 has the right to receive schooling in her neighbourhood, and makes it obligatory for the local government to provide schools and teachers.
Parliament had earlier passed a constitutional amendment in 2002 making education a fundamental right but this could not be implemented till the RTE Act was passed seven years later.
Dar said the proposed Jammu and Kashmir Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act was likely to set the government a four-year deadline to provide the required schools and teachers.
It’s likely to follow the RTE in mandating a pupil-teacher ratio of 30 to 1 and a certain minimum infrastructure, such as at least two rooms, a library and a playground.
The state government has held several meetings with experts and educationists on framing the new law, one of them being lawyer Ashok Agrawal, who has filed several court petitions against RTE Act violations.
Agrawal said the new state law might in some ways be more progressive than the central law.
“We have asked the state to provide the right to children between five and 14 years of age, instead of six and 14 as under the central law,” he said.
C.L. Vishen, president of the association of private schools in the state, who too was consulted by the state government, expressed concern about a proposed 25 per cent reservation for poor children at private schools. The RTE Act has such a provision for free education for poor children.
“The RTE Act says the government must reimburse private schools for the 25 per cent poor children at a rate equivalent to the expenditure per pupil at government schools. We want the state government to reimburse us at the rates we are charging,” Vishen said.
Vishen also opposed any provision that requires parents to make up 75 per cent of school management committee members, as under the RTE Act.