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Right To Education: Need Of Tomorrow

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By Satyendra Tripathi:

“Education is better way towards liberalization and creates peace”

Way before the beginning of the freedom movement in India the need of education had been felt by the Indian social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Jugul Kisore Sukul etc. Also, the leaders of the freedom movement of India recognized the role of education. Indians with vast diversity in society and social structure were good in indigenous education but there were a large number of draw backs in social structure. It may be due to our social structure that is divided according to Karmic connections, which took the shape of inequality in society and created a huge gap between the education level of rich and poor; between the Sawarns and the so called Dalits/backward classes. Although the provision of reservation was introduced in the Indian Constitution to remove this inequality and it got success to some extent but still we have a long way ahead in this direction.

After the educational reforms all around the world there was a strong feeling in Indian political and social sectors that the education should be a basic right of human and as a result Indian Government introduced the bill “The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act” or “Right to Education Act (RTE)”, which was passed by the Indian parliament on 4 August 2009, describes the modalities of the provision of free and compulsory education to the children between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. India joined the group of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child when the act came into force on 1 April 2010.

After the enactment of this law the right to education is universal entitlement to children within 6-14 age groups, a right that is recognized as a human right. According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights the right to education includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education, ideally by the progressive introduction of free higher education. The right to education also includes a responsibility to provide basic education for individuals who have not completed primary education. In addition to these access to education provisions, the right to education encompasses the obligation to rule out discrimination at all levels of the educational system, to set minimum standards and to improve quality of education.

The right to education act is separated into three levels:

Primary (Elemental or Fundamental) Education: This shall be compulsory and free for any child regardless of their nationality, gender, place of birth, or any other discrimination. Upon ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, states must provide free primary education within two years.

Secondary (or Elementary, Technical and Professional in the UDHR) Education must be generally available and accessible.

Higher Education (at the University Level) should be provided according to capacity. That is, anyone who meets the necessary education standards should be able to go to university.

Both secondary and higher education shall be made accessible “by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education”.

The realisation of the right to education on a national level may be achieved through compulsory education, or more specifically free compulsory primary education, as stated in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Highlights of the Indian Bill:

– The 86th Constitution Amendment Act, 2002 requires the State to provide free and compulsory elementary education to all children. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008 seeks to give effect to this Amendment. All children between the ages of six and 14 years shall have the right to free and compulsory elementary education in a neighbourhood school.

– No child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education. Schools may not screen applicants during admission or charge capitation fees. A child who completes elementary education shall be awarded a certificate.

Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas, Sainik Schools, and unaided schools shall admit at least 25% of students from disadvantaged and economically weaker groups.

– A person who wants to file a grievance claim shall submit a written complaint to the local authority. Appeals shall be decided by either the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights or the specified authority.

– “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan” will provide free education, educational materials and food too in day time in schools.

Key Issues and Analysis:

– There are no specific penalties if the authorities fail to provide the right to elementary education.

– Both the state government and the local authority have the duty to provide free and compulsory elementary education. Sharing of this duty may lead to neither government being held accountable.

– The Bill provides for the right to schooling and physical infrastructure but does not guarantee that children learn. It exempts government schools from any consequences if they do not meet the specified norms.

– The constitutional validity of reservations of seats in private schools for economically weaker sections could be challenged which violation of Article 19(1).

– Minority schools are not exempt from provisions in this Bill. It is possible that this will conflict with Article 30 of the Constitution, which allows minorities to set up and administer educational institutions.

– The Bill legitimises the practice of multi-grade teaching. The number of teachers shall be based on the number of students rather than by grade.

Now the question arises whether RTE can bring a drastic change in the level of education in India or it would only be another law in the crowd of several similar legislation and programmes? Let’s have a look at the Government’s ambitious project ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan” that was introduced with a motive to provide quality education to the children within the age group of 6-14 years. Presently most of the primary schools governed by government either don’t have faculty or have corruption. Teacher-student ratio is exceptionally high. There is free-flowing corruption in education sector. Whether it be distribution of free uniform and books to poor students or it be Mid-day meal scheme, corruption has overshadowed them.

The solution of a problem does not lies in making schemes and introducing new provisions only but the significant part is the implementation of the same. It has been seen in the current session that there are not sufficient candidates to fill the 25% quota reserved for the poor students in the private school of Delhi. If this is the condition of national capital then one can imagine that what would be the condition in other areas.

However, not much time have passed after implementation of law therefore being sceptic about the success of it would not be right and by moving in a right direction, a lot can be achieved. Need is to make people aware of the provisions of this Act and ensure the strict implementation of the provisions of this law by government as well as private schools by proper monitoring.

आज आवश्यकता है मौजूदा संस्थानो को और सुदृढ़ व सशक्त करने की नाकि नए संस्थानो मे धन का दुरुपयोग करने की। हमारे यहा संस्थानो की संख्या पर्याप्त है मगर उसे मिलने वही सुविधाए व संसाधन पर्याप्त नहीं। जरूरत मौजूदा नियमों को सही तरीके से लागू करने की नाकि उसके लिए नयी व्यवस्था तैयार की जाए।

This article has also been published at the author’s blog here

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:  Satyendra Tripathi is a climate change researcher in BITS-Pilani, Hyderabad. A social and environmental activist, and associated with Prabuddha Bharat Sangh, Bhartiyam Science Society. You can contact him at satyendratripathee@gmail.com.[/box]

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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