By Video Volunteers:
Video Volunteers launched its campaign ‘Pass Ya Fail?’ in November 2013. This is the first-ever video audit of the Right to Education Act in India. This is an update on what our determined Community Correspondents have documented in the last seven months.
“Today, there is a new tube well installed in the school. This ensures that the children are not limited to consuming a single bottle of water that they brought from home. 70 children now have access to an inexhaustible source of water. The cooks also have clean water to cook the mid-day meal. The entire village rallied together to collectively make decisions and appeal for change. The administration is now acutely aware of the strength of this village. With every video I make, I hope I can similarly inspire many more villages across Nuapada,” says Abhishek Dash.
Video Volunteers’ Community Correspondent, Abhishek Dash’s recent impact video that helped bring clean drinking water to a primary school in Dotto village, Odisha is only one example of the successes we’ve had in last seven months of running our campaign, ‘Pass Ya Fail?’. This campaign harnesses the power of community video to document violations of the RTE Act and bring change to the situation.
At Video Volunteers, we endeavour to bring you the most unheard and least talked about issues in India from previously unexplored perspectives. Our campaign, ‘Pass Ya Fail?’ a video audit of the Right to Education Act in India, is one such attempt to show you what challenges a majority of India’s young citizens face while trying to go to school. When the Act was passed in 2010, VV was one of many organisations across India that celebrated because the RTE Act envisioned education for all children regardless of their caste, sex, class or religion. It also envisioned a certain quality of education. Most importantly, the government took this responsibility on itself. Three years later, after the set deadline to put all systems in place had lapsed, the Act was still far from its goals. Between 2011 and 2013 our Community Correspondents sent in video after video, reporting on the lack of teachers, substandard quality of education, and absence of facilities like toilets or drinking water in schools—all provisions that are guaranteed under the RTE Act.
‘Pass Ya Fail?’ was born out of these initial video evidences. In the duration of the campaign, highly motivated Community Correspondents will audit at least 100 schools from 100 districts monitoring seven key provisions:
• Correct teacher student ratio (1:30 primary school, 1:35 upper primary schools)
• Separate toilets for girls and boys
• Access to clean drinking water
• Separate kitchen to cook Mid-day Meals
• Access to library, play ground and play material
• Safe school buildings
While the videos for this campaign will come from across the length and breadth of India, we will focus on the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, which have some of the lowest literacy rates in India. Our concentrated presence in these areas will aid our advocacy efforts with state commissions and ministries.
The campaign is different from previous research on education because it hinges on community monitoring; the very people who face the challenges document them. Rather than an outsider or external research expert telling stories about a school in a remote village in Chhattisgarh, it is the person from the village itself who will examine the school and share its story: what’s working, what isn’t and what needs to be done.
In the past seven months of the ‘Pass Ya Fail?‘ campaign, Community Correspondents have had their ears to the ground and their cameras ready to film violations of the RTE Act. Till now, Correspondents have covered a total of 24 districts and have produced 35 audit videos. The resulting videos are compelling testimonies of teachers, students and their parents talking about the challenges they face with the Indian education system. These included the stories of:
Dutika, a young girl from Gadakhol village, Odisha who had to drop out of school because the closest school was a 6km walk through the jungle; a bunch of school-children in Gaunaha Block, Bihar who spend their days cutting grass because the teachers are absent on most days and when they do come, don’t teach; students in Sayla Block, Gujarat can’t drink water from the school tank because it is crawling with lizards, and all kinds of bugs.
The work of our Community Correspondents doesn’t end at documenting these violations. Each audit video will have an Impact follow-up plan through which Correspondents will actively mobilise the communities to demand their rights and ask authorities to ensure the implementation of the provisions violated. Through our past work and during this specific campaign we have found that there is nothing more powerful than a community activist with a camera. ‘Pass Ya Fail?’ already has 7 impacts under its belt. This means that community monitoring works!
Our Community Correspondents have proven that determination, not taking no for an answer and getting people to talk to each other can bring great results. They can boast of achieving impacts like: making 50 schools across Torpa Block, Jharkhand, safe by getting lightening conductors installed in them; getting a teacher employed to a school in Machandur village, Chhattisgarh bringing better education to the 75 students there and getting a school building constructed in Gandhigram village, Bihar, so that now children don’t have to walk to the next village to study.
In the coming months we hope to achieve at least 23 more impacts like this. Additionally we will work closely with advocacy organisations working on education and with state governments to ensure that stronger mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of the RTE Act are put in place. An increased accountability to local communities is what our ultimate goal through this is.
Join us on this amazing journey of community video monitoring, be a part of the process that empowers communities to voice their own needs and make the Right to Education a tangible reality for themselves and their future generations.
Stay tuned for our next update: an exclusive on the significance, scope and challenges of community media.