Punjab to educate 65,000 children under RTE

Describing the revolutionary and historic legislation, Punjab's Education Minister Upinderjit Kaur said the Punjab education department would admit about 65,000 children who are not able to attend schools due to their domestic compulsions.

Punjab has had an Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance government since March 2007.

"The Punjab government, by implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act, would ensure that within three years every child aged 6 to 14 years would have a school in the neighbourhood," the minister said here. Kaur made a strong appeal to the centre to incur the total expenditure to establish adequate infrastructure in schools and pointed to various shortfalls in the act which needed special attention.

"Additional infrastructure, including buildings, teachers and finance would be required to implement the RTE for which the centre must share a major part to help the state," she added. With the historic RTE Act coming into force, India has joined the league of over 130 countries which have legal guarantees to provide free and compulsory education to children, she added.

She pointed out that some provisions of the RTE Act were very radical in nature but the act has ignored important issues, such as free education for children below six and above 14 up to 18 years.  "They won't even have passed 10th standard at that stage. Without passing class 12, children won't be eligible for even low-paid job openings," she said.

"The 0-6 age group is very important from the pre-school point of view particularly for marginalized and vulnerable sections of society. Exclusion of this age group would mainly affect the poor strata and ignoring the under six age group could lead to promotion of child labour," the minister said.

To implement the RTE Act, she demanded that the centre should bear all expenses as states were not able to incur their share of burden in the ambitious project aimed at providing free education to children because a huge amount would be required for its execution. She revealed that her department is finalizing the infrastructural and financial requirements for implementation of the act in government schools. "We will place our financial requirements before the state government. That exercise is on and it will be finalized in a month," she said.

The minister said that almost all state governments wanted the centre to increase its proposed share from 55 percent to 75 and even 90 percent. "Some states want the centre to provide 100 percent funds. The union government at present has mooted a centre-state fund sharing pattern of 55:45 which was earlier in the ratio of 75:25. The states lack sufficient resources to implement the act and it is the centre's responsibility to meet the expenditure."

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