A year on, RTE yet to get off the ground: Civil society groups

It has been a year since the Right to Education (RTE) came to effect but when it comes to its implementation.

Updated: Mar 31, 2011, 21:10 PM IST

New Delhi: It has been a year since the
Right to Education (RTE) came to effect but when it comes to
its implementation, the law which mandates free and compulsory
education to children aged between six and 14 years is yet to
get off the ground, civil society groups allege.

Lack of political will and coordination among states
and the centre coupled with the issues like shortage of
schools and teachers still remain as stumbling blocks for the
implementation of the Act, according to a stock taking report
by the RTE Forum, a coalition of civil society organisations.

"It is a shame that one year after the enforcement of
the (RTE) Act, we have yet to get off the ground on key
provisions. The dream of universal education remains a distant
reality," said Ambarish Rai, spokesperson for the forum.

The RTE Forum comprises NGOs like Campaign against
Child Labour (CACL), Save the Children, National Coalition for
Education, Oxfam-India, Plan, UNICEF, NAFRE among others.

Trained teachers hold the key to the success of RTE.
But, according to the report, there is a huge shortage of
about 14 lakh teachers in the country.

Certain states like Uttar Pradesh have a huge
shortfall of over two lakh vacancies, which have not been
filled up due to lack of resources. Moreover, eight states
have less than 50 per cent professionally qualified teachers,
the report found.

Interestingly, the qualifications among teachers in
private unaided schools were lower than that of government
teachers (68.8 per cent, compared to 89.2 per cent).

"It is a sad state of affairs that teachers who are
the focal points implementing the RTE Act are the ones that
know the least about it," Rai said.

There were several provisions within the Act that had
to be fulfilled within the first year. State Rules are one of
the most important elements to ensure the wide implementation
of the RTE Act.

But, only five states -- Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal
Pradesh, Orissa, Sikkim and Manipur -- have notified their
State Rules, while Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are waiting
for cabinet approval, said the report.

Furthermore, RTE implementation was delayed due to the
debate between the centre and states on who will pay for its
implementation and there was further disappointment when the
Union budget allocated only Rs 21,000 crore to the Ministry of
Human Resources and Development, which demanded Rs 34,000
crore to fund RTE and SSA implementation, it said.

Another problem, the report highlighted, is the lack
of community involvement which is the key for successful
implementation of any policy. With evidence suggesting that only one in six persons
is aware of the RTE Act, there is an urgent need for a change
in redressal mechanism for the RTE, the report said.

Shanta Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission
for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), said both civil
society and the government were equal stakeholders and
partners in the implementation of the RTE.

"There are drawbacks, including lack of human
resources but with political commitment, we can skip timelines
to make sure the RTE reaches every child in this country."

The NCPCR has been mandated with monitoring the
implementation of the Act, but the body lacks the capacity to
do justice to the scale of educational right violations, said
the report.

SCPCRs, or the state wings of NCPCR, have not been set
up in half of the state and wherever they exist, they lack

Similarly, the School Management Committees (SMCs),
which are the first line complaint mechanisms under the RTE
Act, are not being formed in many states. This leaves parents
and children without a visible place to go if their
educational rights are violated, the report said.

Another area that has not been addressed is the issue
of child labour. There is already a law -- the Child Labour
Prohibition and Regulation Act -- to regulate child labour
while the RTE stipulates that children under 14 must go to
school. There is no move to amend the CLPRA and bring it in
line with the RTE, the report pointed out.