A year on, RTE yet to get off the ground: civil society groups

Lack of political will and coordination among states and the centre coupled with the issues like shortage of schools and teachers still remain as stumbling blocks for the implementation of the Act, according to a stock taking report by the RTE Forum, a coalition of civil society organisations.

"It is a shame that one year after the enforcement of the (RTE) Act, we have yet to get off the ground on key provisions. The dream of universal education remains a distant reality," said Ambarish Rai, spokesperson for the forum.

The RTE Forum comprises NGOs like Campaign against Child Labour (CACL), Save the Children, National Coalition for Education, Oxfam-India, Plan, UNICEF, NAFRE among others.

Trained teachers hold the key to the success of RTE. But, according to the report, there is a huge shortage of about 14 lakh teachers in the country.

Certain states like Uttar Pradesh have a huge shortfall of over two lakh vacancies, which have not been filled up due to lack of resources. Moreover, eight states have less than 50 per cent professionally qualified teachers, the report found.

Interestingly, the qualifications among teachers in private unaided schools were lower than that of government teachers (68.8 per cent, compared to 89.2 per cent).

"It is a sad state of affairs that teachers who are the focal points implementing the RTE Act are the ones that know the least about it," Rai said.

There were several provisions within the Act that had to be fulfilled within the first year. State Rules are one of the most important elements to ensure the wide implementation of the RTE Act.

But, only five states -- Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Sikkim and Manipur -- have notified their State Rules, while Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are waiting for cabinet approval, said the report.

Furthermore, RTE implementation was delayed due to the debate between the centre and states on who will pay for its implementation and there was further disappointment when the Union budget allocated only Rs 21,000 crore to the Ministry of Human Resources and Development, which demanded Rs 34,000 crore to fund RTE and SSA implementation, it said.

Another problem, the report highlighted, is the lack of community involvement which is the key for successful implementation of any policy.

With evidence suggesting that only one in six persons is aware of the RTE Act, there is an urgent need for a change in redressal mechanism for the RTE, the report said.
Shanta Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), said both civil society and the government were equal stakeholders and partners in the implementation of the RTE.

"There are drawbacks, including lack of human resources but with political commitment, we can skip timelines to make sure the RTE reaches every child in this country."

The NCPCR has been mandated with monitoring the implementation of the Act, but the body lacks the capacity to do justice to the scale of educational right violations, said the report.

SCPCRs, or the state wings of NCPCR, have not been set up in half of the state and wherever they exist, they lack manpower.

Similarly, the School Management Committees (SMCs), which are the first line complaint mechanisms under the RTE Act, are not being formed in many states. This leaves parents and children without a visible place to go if their educational rights are violated, the report said.

Another area that has not been addressed is the issue of child labour. There is already a law -- the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act -- to regulate child labour while the RTE stipulates that children under 14 must go to school. There is no move to amend the CLPRA and bring it in line with the RTE, the report pointed out.

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