'Neighbourhood' confusion clouds RTE

For, despite finalisation of a revenue village as the unit of neighbourhood in rural areas by the Education Department, the programme is faced with a large number of problems in utilising the municipal ward as the unit of neighbourhood in urban areas.

Section 3 of the RTE Act states that every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall have a right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till completion of elementary education.

Last week, a lot of objections were raised on using the ward as a neighbourhood unit, during a discussion with the Primary and Secondary Education Secretary G Kumar Naik and officials from Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

Unlike villages, the objection is that schools in urban areas are not uniformly distributed across municipal wards.

An official from SSA said: “We have several municipal wards where there are several children residing, but there are no schools. Similarly, several wards have several schools, but there is no neighbourhood to speak of”.

Bangalore’s central business district, which has hardly any residential areas nearby, also houses some of the best schools in the city. 

However, ABIDe Chariman and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrashekar is of the opinion that using ward boundaries will enable municipal councillors to participate more meaningfully in the implementation of the Act.

Currently, the draft rules have undergone six revisions, and the final version is expected to be submitted some time next month.

Per child expenditure

The other sticking point in finalising the draft rules is calculating the per child expenditure borne by the State government. Under the RTE Act, private schools have to be reimbursed only to the extent of what the State government spends on each child in government schools. The current estimate is believed to be around Rs 4,000, but this figure might be revised upward after taking into account capital costs.

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