Govt apathy ensures that right to education remains on paper

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (in short, the Right to Education Act) seems to have remained on paper in most states, including Karnataka.

This is not because of the fact that the Act was criticised since inception by the right to education activists due to its inherent flaws but because of the apathy and lack of political will of the states to implement the Act in letter and spirit.

The half-hearted response of the government of Karnataka from day one after the law was given effect to on April 1, 2010 is an indication of deliberate abdication of responsibility to implement the law. It is important to examine the implications of the non-implementation of the law as against the legitimate responsibility of the state to do so.

It is an established fact in the judicial procedure that unless we have well defined rules formulated by the state (appropriate government) none of the statutes can be implemented effectively and meaningfully to achieve the intended goal of legislation.

The Right to Education Act is no exception to this. Though the Right to Education Act was to come into effect from April 1, 2010, till now no rules have been framed to implement the Act. The Karnataka high court had also passed an order directing the state to notify the rules in response to a public interest litigation, but nothing has been done so far.

Firstly, the operational part of the Right to Education Act under section 3(1) to provide ‘Right to Free and Compulsory Education’ to every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years in the neighbourhood school remains non-operational in the private unaided schools.

As per section 12(1)(c) of the legislation, the private unaided schools are legally bound to provide at least 25  per cent of the seats in class I to children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, the children residing in the neighbourhood of such private schools have been deprived of this legal entitlement for the last two years. This is an injustice done to the children belonging to marginalised sections and gross violation of their rights under the law.

Secondly, the most disheartening part is that though the Act provides for banning capitation fee and all forms of screening procedures while admitting the children in schools, the private institutions are blatantly collecting huge capitation or donation and openly conducting the screening procedure for both children as well as parents while admitting children to school.

Long queues for application
It is a common phenomenon in the city in the last two to three months that long queues were formed overnight before many private schools to obtain application forms for admission. This is simply because there are no rules to implement the corresponding provision under section 13 of the Right to Education Act that bans capitation fee and screening procedure.

More interestingly, the state itself is conducting the entrance exam for admissions in the residential schools run by the state government .The Karnataka State Residential Institutions Society is happily conducting the entrance for admission by violating the  law of the land.

What is worrisome is that there is no sign of implementation of the law even in the third consecutive academic year (2012-13) after the law came into force. Prestigious private unaided institutions in the city have already finished the admission and other institutions are in the process of completing the new admission for the academic year 2012-13. It is a clear indication that the law in all probability will not come into effect even in the forthcoming academic year.

The story of free and compulsory education in the state does not end here. The state itself is violating the law. Under section 8 of the Act, the state has an obligation to provide free and compulsory elementary education to every child in the age group of 6-14 years. The Act further made it clear through an explanation saying ‘compulsion’ means obligation on the state.

But contrary to this, the educational manual prepared for primary schools by the department of public instruction and Sarva Shikshana Abhiyana Mission for the academic year 2011-12 has violated its own obligation under the law. The state has prescribed fee under various heads in the manual to be collected in all government schools for the year 2011-12. As per the manual, the children in class VI and VII need to pay Rs 38 and children in class VIII need to pay Rs 185 (page 41 of the manual). This defies logic as the state itself is in violation of the law, which it is duty-bound to uphold.

it is ironical that instead of the children having the right free and compulsory education, they only have an arbitrarily-fixed fee-based and non-compulsory education, making a mockery of the legislation passed with high intention, but little commitment to implement it.

(The writer is a fellow and programme head for universalisation of school education at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore)

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