This post is a part of #JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
This post is a part of JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
The holistic view of our real independence usually comes from how educated our population is and to know that our Right to Education policy was finalised in 2009 doesn’t give much of a hope. According to this UN report of 2018, 27.5% of India’s population still lives below the poverty line.
The report also suggests that every 2nd ST (Scheduled Tribe) and every 3rd Dalit is poor not only by income but also by nutrition, health, education, living standards and assets.
This makes education for students from such communities extremely difficult especially with high rates of inflation, higher fees and cost of living and hence, most of the students from SC, ST, OBC communities depend on scholarships to take care of their financial needs.
One of the key and inclusive aspects of RTE act was to provide equal opportunity of basic education for all children irrespective of their socio-economic status. To avail this objective, a 25% quota system at entry-level was introduced. Even though the enrollment in schools has gone up because of the act, there have been numerous dropouts due to sexual, verbal and physical abuse in the classroom against Dalit students. There are numerous incidents of segregation and humiliation of Dalit students in front of their peers available on the internet. This kind of ill-treatment has direct consequences on the educational success of Dalit and tribal children. It is reported that more than 42% of students drop out before 8th standard and 49% before 10th.
But the bigger threat to RTE comes from the government itself from non-payment of its reimbursement money to institutions under RTE act. As stated earlier, the act guarantees 25% reservation in non-minority private unaided schools to students from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. According to the act, the state government is to reimburse schools for books, fees and uniform for these eligible students.
The non-payment of reimbursement has discouraged many private schools to register themselves under the RTE act. Out of 22,800 private schools in Maharashtra, only 9331(41%) have registered under RTE. Even if they are registered, there have been cases of schools denying RTE admissions or schools pressurising parents of these economically disadvantaged students to pay the fees. Such kind of ill-treatment does not contribute to the growth of Dalit and Tribal students. In 2019, it was noted that more than 40% of seats under RTE in Maharashtra had remained vacant.
The recent debacle of Post Matric Scholarship which was later approved by the government after a staunch protest by Dalit and Human Right Activists shows the unwillingness of the government to draw policies towards the progress and Dalit and Adivasi community in higher education. There was a 43% reduction in the beneficiaries of Post Matric Scholarship from 2016-17 to 2018-19. Such unwillingness results in students’ hardship in completing the course which in turn results in dropouts.
Education is the only tool which will give Dalits and Tribal students a sustainable life, but there has been a continuous effort from policymakers, government and the anti-reservation brigade to halt this. At a time when fees, rate of inflation and cost of living is increasing, there should be a serious effort by the state and centre to increase the scholarship amount for higher education towards Dalits and Tribal students, but we have seen a decrease in total expenditure on the education sector.
For 2019 – 20, the government spent 3.4% of its total budget on education vis a vis 4.1% in 2014-15. With an increasing number of private education institutes which do apply reservation, it is important for the government to deliver on the constitutional right of education for SC ST and OBC community.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Jaati Nahi, Adhikaar Writer’s Training Program. Head here to know more about the program and to apply for an upcoming batch!