By Shruti Singh:
The much discussed Right to Education Act has been criticised by many. People have shammed it by saying that it is an ambiguous system that does not promise quality education to everyone under the scheme. Most of the criticism that the act has seen is only from an outsider’s perspective. What are the ground realities of this ambitious scheme that has loopholes galore?
But before we delve deep into that, we need to understand why it is important to us. We have a knack of feeding our convenience with regular porridge of the “things-will-never-change” attitude. It is not breaking news that as a young lot, we have wanted reservations for the economically weaker sections- both in education and in jobs. This is precisely why you need to know what the government means when it says, “…every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards” and what is actually happening.
Get ready to discover the dark side of the seemingly glorious law (and do not expect any cookies). Radhika works for SEWA Bharat in Jaipur and is one of those disappointed people who have seen the RTE failing. While working closely with parents who cannot even afford commutation from their slums to the nearest government schools, she has a unique take on the implementation of the RTE act- the honest one.
The law is applicable only at the entry levels, i.e. nursery or class one. If the school’s entry level is higher than that, the RTE umbrella doesn’t cover it. The target community constitutes of people who have not been able to afford sending their children to schools till the age of five. What happens to them? They do not get admission because entry level classrooms also have a specified age limit. In addition to this, RTE admissions close before general admissions. The notice came out on March 14, schools opted for March 24 to be the last admission date, and the term will not start before June. This paves way to a confused staff, short admission window, and disappointed parents. Talking about staff, this is another issue that hasn’t yet found its place in the policy makers’ books. School administration looking after RTE admissions is insufficient, making it an impossible process for the parents.
The RTE application form is not free, and parents need to present a number of unnecessary documents, in their original copy, to prove their children’s eligibility. These include certificates of birth, of caste and of income. Since RTE admissions are done through a lottery system, these folks cannot take the chance of applying to just one school. Multiple applications mean multiple original copies of the documents. The cost of getting this made and remade is wrapped up in bribes and numerous rounds of the Collectorate in order to get through the red tape. If there is one thing that the RTE has succeeded in, it’s in making the entire process expensive, simultaneously defeating the basic premise of the law.
Before the lottery is conducted, schools are expected to enter data for each and every RTE student. They are also supposed to update the winners’ information online. Even if under the RTE, 25 seats are applicable, schools might just enter ten names and take out the lottery of students who they know will not have the knowledge to visit the school back to check results and submit documents. If this is not taking advantage of parents’ naivety, then what is? In case the RTE seats are not full, schools do not conduct another lottery to fill them. They are then free to carry out admissions and take fees.
There is a major conflict that the private schools also face. Any such school that enrols a child under the RTE has to take at least 15 rounds to the State Government to receive compensation for the student. Most schools under the scheme are run in a section of the founder’s home, with a maximum number of four teachers who are just 16 years old.
While experts have been engaging in highlighted discourse around the merits and demerits of this scheme on paper, the ground realities of its implementation speak volumes about its future. The government seems to have rushed into making the policy without having done a check on the imbalance that it is causing in the system. People are being discouraged from applying to schools and quality education seems like a distant dream. These poor men and women who have migrated from conflict stricken areas in the hope of providing a better life to their children are being betrayed. Under the garb of reforming the primary education sector, the RTE act has become another money minting mechanism.
What can you do to help? You can be aware of these minute details and help the impoverished in your vicinity. You can pass on this information to them so that they don’t fall prey to the corruption. Raise your voice and demand transparency in the system. Those children also deserve to be able to read this article, and not be just a subject of theÂ readers’Â sympathy here.