Sunday, March 16, 2014

'Closure of small schools to do more harm than good'

'Closure of small schools to do more harm than good'


HYDERABAD: When the Right to Education (RTE) Act was first brought into being, the legislation seemed to be a precursor of good tidings for lakhs of poor children across the country. But the much-touted law seems to have failed, both in its implementation and non-implementation. On one hand several crucial aspects like 25 per cent reservation for poor children in private schools have not been implemented, on the other hundreds of small schools running in slum areas have been shut down as they do not conform to the standards set by the RTE Act. Activists in the state said this has denied thousands of children their only chance at English-medium education.

After the deadline to implement RTE measured expired in March last year, over 400 schools have been closed down by the state government, most of which provided English-medium education to students whose families are below the poverty line. With 800 more schools facing the axe soon, experts rue that the implementation of the Act may actually add to the woes of several students.

Activists and politicos are now planning to highlight this issue. Kadiyam Srihari, ex-education minister and chairman of the manifesto committee of TRS, said the matter will be made a part of their manifesto. "The implementation of the Act has been faulty. The gist of RTE is to bring education to the poor and not take away education from them. RTE says there should be schools near the homes of children whose parents belong to the working class," Srihari said.

While the government said that the schools they shut were unrecognized ones that did not have basic facilities, the point being highlighted by activists is that these schools were charging only Rs.200-400 per month as fees. This made them incapable of implementing measures like playground and required student-teacher ratio.

"The schools which were closed could have had few children studying in them. Nonetheless, they did provide temporary relief for children from deprived backgrounds," said Y Rajendra Prasad from MV Foundation.

Activists also pointed out that bigger private schools, which have failed to implement the reservation for poor students, have not been touched by the implementers of the Act. Most schools that were closed were located in slum pockets in the cities.

Of the 34 unrecognised schools asked to shut shop in Ranga Reddy district, 60 per cent catered to children from slums. In Rajendranagar, about 14 of the 21 schools which faced closure were attended by children from similar backgrounds.

"The need of the hour is to get more schools in areas where poor children live. Before closure of schools, the government should put in place alternative schooling solutions," said Ramesh Patnaik from AP Save Education Committee.

Meanwhile, the children in the schools that were shut down were shifted to nearby government schools, a move most of their parents resented due to their lack of belief in the Telugu medium of instruction.

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