By Amit Sengupta:
I am sure you all are pretty hooked on to your TV sets, smartphones and the social media to get latest updates of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. India’s swashbuckling win over Bangladesh by 109 runs to enter the semi finals went viral over social media and made cricket fans go crazy. Viewers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and cricket fans including me, couldn’t have asked for more. An overseas win always makes it a bit more special and this win, in the presence of 100,000 viewers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was historic to say the least.
Wonder why I am talking about the cricket world cup and Melbourne?
Here is a reality bite: Did you know that in India, there are a whopping 6 million (60 lakh) children out of school and are deprived of their fundamental right to education?
60 lakh! Yes! Sounds unbelievable, but true!
That’s 60 times the capacity of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
India may be winning cricket matches overseas, but is about to lose the war being waged against lack of access to education for its children. It is unacceptable that 60 lakh Indian children are out of school and deprived of education. Many of these children can be provided free and compulsory education by the government and public school system if India implements its historic Right to Education Act in full steam.
But it hasn’t.
For the uninitiated, India enacted the RTE Act in 2009 and it has been in force since April 2010. The Act mandates that all the government, public funded and aided schools of the country have to comply fully with some basic provisions for education of all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years. But even after five years of the Act’s enforcement, only about a little over 8 per cent of the government schools comply with its provisions of providing access to schools, entitlements of quality education, providing infrastructure, constitution of school management committees, and accountability.
India’s RTE Act has a quintessential role in providing free and compulsory education to all children between the age group of 6 and 14. There have been some significant achievements that the Act has managed to achieve in a span of 5 years.
1. A total of 198.9 million children have been guaranteed free and compulsory elementary education.
2. As per a recent MHRD study on the status of RTE Act, out of the 13,24,28,440 children enrolled in 2013-14 in primary education, 48 percent are girls, 20 percent are Scheduled Castes and 11 percent are Scheduled Tribes. Out of these, 14 percent are Muslims.
This gives us enough reason to question the inaction on full implementation of the Act. As is oft-repeated, education is a key enabler and access to free and quality education has immense potential to lift millions out of poverty and inequality. India’s rank was at the bottom 102 out of 120 countries ranked by the Global Monitoring Report 2012, quotes Oxfam’s policy brief, ‘Right to Education Act: Claiming Education for Every Child’.
It is beyond imagination that a country of 100 billionaires still has 6 million children out of school. These children are between 6 to 13 years of age. A shocking majority (75%) of these out of school children belong to Dalit (32.4%), Tribal (16.6%) and Muslim (25.7%) communities.
A recent study quoted by Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) on India’s Union Budget 2015-16 states that India has 43.5 lakh children as main workers between 5-14 years; while there are 19 lakh and 38.7 lakh children working as marginal workers. There are 35 districts in the country which have more than 10% working children .
Given that the country’s social sector spending, especially on education, is increasingly being cut, it makes sense to invest and implement the RTE Act in full force. Though the budget for FY 2015-16 talks about increasing outlay for higher education and establishing newer IITs and IIMs, there has been a 16.5% decline in the budgetary allocation to Department of School Education and Literacy and Department of Higher Education. The Union Government is clearly steering away from its accountability and responsibility to allocate resources for the RTE Act.
Oxfam is asking the Government to fully implement the Act and come out with a clear road map for its implementation in the next three years. This Act, if implemented fully, can potentially uplift millions of children and provide them the basic right of education. Non-compliance by 92% of the schools is simply unacceptable.
Oxfam’s Haq Banta Hai campaign aims to give a clear message to the Union Government and the Education Ministry in particular to take action on RTE and provide millions of children their fundamental right of education. Similar advocacy efforts by campaigns such as ‘Nine is Mine’ also have been demanding increased budgetary spending on education to at least 6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Your support is vital. You can join us in this campaign and help foster an atmosphere where every child can have his or her ‘Haq’ (right) of education. Do sign the petition here or give a missed call to 09266605000 to share your support.