This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rajkanya Mahapatra. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Has The RTE Act Done Any Good At All? These Videos Show The Shocking Reality

More from Rajkanya Mahapatra

By Rajkanya Mahapatra:

Have you ever seen a long story cut short? Cut so short that it can tell you all you need to know in two minutes? Well, I have and you need to enlighten yourself too.


This video titled ‘Pass Ya Fail?’ Right to Education in India’ — A Video Volunteers Initiative, tells you, like it told me, straight from the kids if the ‘progressive’ Right To Education Act has done more good or any good at all to help these children learn.

The Right to Education Act was envisioned when the Constitution was being constructed but it became a Fundamental right only in 2002, when the Indian Constitution was amended for the 86th time and Article 21(A) became a reality. It was the consequent legislation in 2009 that was passed and came into effect from April 1, 2010 that guaranteed free and compulsory education for all the children in the country who were between the ages of 6-14.

The act ensures admission of children into schools and their fees being paid by the government. Everything from uniforms to textbooks and transportation shall be paid for and looked after by the government. The schools (both government and some private) that are under the RTE Act are supposed to have safe and adequate drinking water facilities for all children, separate toilets for boys and girls, properly trained teachers and a kitchen that would cook mid-day meals. The schools should also be an all-weather building that should be functional during heavy rains and extreme summers/winters.

It might come as a surprise to you, when I tell you that 19% of all the children in the world are in India, also 8 million of them are out of school. The vision behind the act is really noble but having said that we cannot ignore what really happened after those noble thoughts were put into action. The RTE Act crossed a major deadline on April 1, 2013, three years after its implementation, the situation is really grim, where children belonging to disadvantaged communities still have to face discrimination and teachers are inadequate in number and children belonging to two different grades sit and study together, lack of toilets and inedible or insect manifested food are served as meals. Absenteeism has increased too.

There are several problems that need to be paid attention to, enrolment figures in various surveys are high whereas the number of kids who actually attend school on a regular basis and actually learn something is low. According to the ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) 2012, 46.8% children belonging to grade 5 could only read a standard II level text, 24.8% children could do a simple division problem and only 22.5% children could read basic English sentences. These are all India figures, regional variations are high and for some states, the results are extremely upsetting.

The Right To Education Act and the elementary education system has a rather faulty assumption when it thinks that children would enter the elementary education system at the age of 8 and would gradually progress every year to a higher standard and thus would complete 8 years of their primary education. This assumption contradicts the actual picture, when in practice in a country like India, children do not necessarily begin grade 1 at an appropriate age, nor do they systematically progress up the ladder one year at a time. At the all-India level, the age variation in each class is substantial. ASER data shows that large proportions of children currently in school are over age even in grade 1. In 2012, only half of all the children in enrolled in grade 4 in government schools were eight or nine years old.

This in turn aggravates the problems of the teachers who are unfortunately very small in number. Teachers have to teach a diverse class room which has 8 and 9 years old who have different skill sets and thought patterns and an absolutely different level of learning ability in contrast to their older peers, who are numbered in the class and are ignored. It is an easier job for the teacher to teach a homogenous group of children, it requires less skill and effort especially when teacher — pupil ratios in some schools are 60:1. There are schools wherein 2 teachers are teaching as many as 188 students!

Watch this video to know some more about the situation:

The Act also aims at providing the means for education (like buildings, facilities, teachers etc.) than particularly achieving educational benchmarks. Important markers of what makes a school under the RTE Act are access to safe and adequate drinking water, separate toilets for both boys and girls and one teacher per class room, a playground, an office for the head teacher etc.

What matters the most now are the levels of sanitation and hygiene that is observed in the schools. 35.1% of schools had toilets but they weren’t usable. 21.3% has no provision for separate toilets for girls and boys and 16.6% schools had no facility for drinking water. 23.9% schools had no library but 61.1% schools did have a playground.

The numbers talk a lot, but they do have nice things to say too, 84.4% schools served the mid-day meals, 48.2% schools have proper and functioning toilets for girls and 73% schools had available drinking water. Due to proper implementation of the act in Kerala, where there are 36 lakh students and 1.5 lakhs teachers, the pupil-teacher ratio becomes 21:1 in that case, which is really good.

The RTE Act has achieved quite a few things too which would tell us that all has not gone into vain, there have been promising developments starting from the government’s budget for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the main vehicle for RTE’s implementation has nearly doubled from Rs.12, 825 crores in 2009-10 to Rs.27, 258 crore in 2013-14. 3.5 lakh schools have opened up in the last decade and 99% of India’s rural population now has a primary school within a one kilometre radius.

Issues related to the 25% reservation of seats for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in private schools, instances of corporal punishment, non-chalant attitude of the teachers and high drop-out rates in schools in rural areas where the parents withdraw the children out from schools so that they can help them work in fields. Several questions have been raised on mid-day meals, on how they are cooked and their quality. Cases of discrimination on the basis of caste is also prevalent in schools in rural areas. All these factors contribute a lot into hindering the progress and the targets that the act wants to achieve.

As prospective voters of the next election in 2014 and the power vested in us to question policies and demanding to modify or rectify them, when it comes to this particular act which is a source of absolute pride for the country, it all comes down to our perspective and our willingness to do something, to change what is not right and what is not working. The Video Volunteers initiative of checking up on how the act has been implemented so far, is an inspiring example. We can only move ahead when we take both the bad and good into consideration. While the list of grievances and complaints are endless, good things are also happening, although insignificant, but it is important to know both sides of the coin and decide for oneself.

On 14th November 2013, Video Volunteers launched a video audit, “Pass Ya Fail”, that documents the ground reality of the functioning of the Right to Education Act. 206 trained community correspondents, using digital video cameras, will document the problems their communities face trying to get access to proper education facilities. These videos will form the base of the campaign “Pass Ya Fail”, an audit of achievements and shortcomings of the RTE Act. In the first phase of the project, 100 videos from 100 districts from across India, will be produced. Community Correspondents will bring information from hundreds of schools interviewing more than 100 teachers — and of course, numerous parents and children — seeing how these schools measure up to the thirteen key provisions guaranteed by this Act.

Through this video audit, Video Volunteers will raise the issues and concerns on the ground backed by visual evidence with the hope that in the course of the year long campaign, organisations working on education and the government itself will take note of these and ensure that the RTE Act, as envisioned is actually implemented.

You must be to comment.
  1. Hemlata

    Very nice coverage. Thanks for sharing.

More from Rajkanya Mahapatra

Similar Posts

By Siddharth Mohan Roy

By Tripathi Balaji

By A R REZA

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below