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“They Say We’re dirty” Denying an Education to India’s Marginalized

Implementation, Right to Education

Human Rights Watch

April 2014

Abstract: The teacher always made us sit in a corner of the room, and would throw keys at us [when she was angry]. We only got food if anything was left after other children were served…. [G]radually [we] stopped going to school. — Shyam, 14, Dalit boy from Uttar Pradesh now working at a brick kiln, April 2013

In 2009, India enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which provides for free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 based on principles of equity and non-discrimination. For a country that six decades ago at independence had staggering poverty and illiteracy levels, this was an overdue but ambitious step to meet its domestic and internationally recognized obligations to its children. It also testified to
India’s increasing confidence as an emerging economy with one of the youngest and largest work forces in the world.

However, four years after it came into force, the Right to Education Act is yet to be properly implemented.

The complete report can be accessed here.

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Only 4% EWS parents aware of reservation under RTE Act: Study

Implementation, Right to Education

26-04-2014

The Indian Express

Only four per cent of parents from economically weaker sections (EWS) are aware about the availability of 25 per cent seats under EWS category in the capital’s private schools, under the RTE Act, a study has shown.

The study also found that only half of these four per cent parents have managed to navigate through bureaucratic and psychological barriers to apply.

The report was released at a Delhi state-wide conference on the Right to Education Act by Indus Action — an NGO working exclusively towards implementation of Section 12(1)(C) clause of the RTE Act — with support from Central Square Foundation.

“The Right to Education has opened up many opportunities for children from economically weaker sections. Yet, despite the best efforts to spread awareness, eligible families seem to have little knowledge about the policy. Section 12(1)(c) of RTE Act has the potential to put roughly 10 million children across India on a different path in the next five years, making it the single largest opportunity seat scheme in the world. But we need a better state-wide implementation plan for that to happen,” Tarun Cherukuri, founder, Indus Action, said.

The report details on-ground implementation of the mandatory 25 per cent reservation for EWS children and those who are socially disadvantaged. It is based on responses from 350-odd families in South, Southeast, Southwest, North, Northeast and Central Delhi.

Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act mandates that private unaided schools reserve 25 per cent of their seats in entry-level classes for EWS students and those from disadvantaged groups.

Even though awareness levels are low, the report states that eligible families were adequately equipped to apply.

“94.8 per cent people had at least one of the birth proof certificates. 96.85 per cent people had at least one of the accepted documents for address proof. And 82.8 per cent people had at least one of the accepted documents for proof of income,” the report states.

Yet, families chose not to apply, with the exception of four per cent families who did — high fees being a major concern discouraging them from applying to private schools.

The report notes that families did not approach government officials for information, relying instead on help from other families ( 29 per cent) and employers (28 per cent).

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In India’s Schools, Discrimination Drives Dropouts

Implementation, Right to Education

22-04-2014

The Wall Street Journal

RAMPUR, India—At the government school in this north Indian village, 8-year-old Dilip Banwasi is being taught his place.

His third-grade teacher makes him sweep the classroom floor and sit in the back row.

When it is time for lunch, Dilip—a member of a low social class referred to as “rat catchers”—is among the last few to be served. At recess, his classmates warn, “Don’t play with us,” Dilip says.

Dilip’s experience reflects a significant obstacle to improving social mobility in India: discrimination in schools. Roughly half of all Indian public-school students drop out before eighth grade, and most of the dropouts are from lower caste, Muslim or tribal communities, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch.

The report, which looked at four Indian states, places the blame, in part, on discrimination in the public education system.

Discrimination against tribal, Muslim and lower-caste communities in India is commonplace, but it can be particularly damaging in schools, activists say, because of the importance of education to finding better jobs and breaking away from traditional social and economic restraints.

Students who drop out often end up working in the field, joining the roughly 13 million Indian children, most of whom are minorities, engaged in child labor.

In Dilip’s neighborhood, his is the first generation to attend school. The adults work in brick kilns or are employed as servants in the homes of the upper-caste villagers.

Despite his enthusiasm for his studies—he wears his school uniform, khaki shirt and trousers, even on weekends—Dilip’s attendance is thinning.

In March, he skipped a week of school. So far this month he has attended only half of his classes because, he says, he doesn’t enjoy being mocked.

Dilip’s teacher praises his intelligence, up to a point. “He’s bright, but bright only amongst the Musahars,” says Dilip’s teacher, Ramakant Sharma, referring to his community of Dalits, a social class previously referred to as “untouchables.”

Mr. Sharma said, “Discrimination doesn’t happen anymore, at least not in this school.” He added that “it is our duty, as teachers, to educate irrespective of caste and religion.”

Teachers often address poorer students using derogatory terms, according to the Human Rights Watch report, and order them to perform unpleasant chores, like cleaning toilets.

“Teachers are products of a society that discriminates against marginalized communities, and they bring these attitudes into the classroom,” says Jayshree Bajoria, the report’s author.

The report examines access to education in India four years after the country implemented a large-scale education overhaul, the Right to Education Act, guaranteeing free schooling to children ages 6 to 14. Though nearly all students are now enrolled in school, activists say widespread prejudice, and lack of teacher accountability, has made it difficult to keep them there.

A 2012 study, commissioned by the government’s flagship program for elementary education, reached a similar conclusion after studying schools in six states.

An education official at the Ministry of Human Resource Development declined to comment on the Human Rights Watch report and defended the Right to Education act saying its success is that “students who are traditionally out of the education system are now part of it.”

Near Dilip’s school, at the main public school for girls, several students say they rarely interact with children of lower castes.

One girl, Paishwani Singh, says she knew that one of her classmates was Dalit, but doesn’t believe that the girl has any friends. “I have never seen her in class,” she says.

The Right to Education Act included a three-year deadline for states to meet its targets, among them ensuring schools have enough teachers and adequate infrastructure, like toilets and access to drinking water. Most states failed to meet that goal.

Ms. Bajoria of Human Rights Watch says the law should include provisions for teacher training and monitoring, and that there should be clearly defined penalties for teachers who treat students unequally.

Educating teachers about what constitutes discrimination is important because sometimes the prejudice is unintentional, she says.

The law should also specify when a student qualifies as a “dropout,” activists say, a definition that can vary by state. In Dilip’s school, for instance, teachers say there is no mechanism in place to determine a dropout case.

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New India School denies admission to 20 kids, Director of education hints de-recognition

Implementation, Right to Education

22-04-2014

DNA

Pune: In first-of-its-kind case of Right to Education (RTE) Act violation this year, New India School in Kothrud denied admission to some students who applied through the online process. The director of education (primary) has hinted de-recognition of the school.

On Monday afternoon, as many as 20 parents whose children were refused admission by school authorities met Director Education (Primary Section) Mahavir Mane and submitted their complaints.

In the complaint, the parents said that after their children got admissions through the online process. Thereafter they went and submitted the necessary documents and received acknowledgment receipts from the school authorities.

One of the parents said in the complaint that after submission of the forms, they were told that they will be receiving calls from the school. However, no calls were made to the parents.

Another parent said that when they reached the school to seek explanation, the school refused them admission, which prompted them to approach the director’s office.

Mane said that they have sent a team to the school and instructed them to investigate the case. “We have also issued them a show cause notice and if the reply of the school is not satisfactory, we will cancel the approval of the school,” he said. He added that the school is thinking of going to the court but they will file caveat in the court.

Speaking about the RTE admissions, he said that the second round of the admissions will start from April 25.

When contacted Sunita Bhagwat, director of the school, she was not available for comments

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Online system to monitor RTE Act

Implementation, Right to Education

27-02-2014

The Hindu

Kerala: Minister for Social Welfare M.K. Muneer on Wednesday inaugurated ‘Nireekshana’, a system to monitor implementation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act, established by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

The Minister called for efforts by the Commission to handle issues relating to children from marginalised families and school dropouts and also to check child marriages. Since child marriages also tended to affect the right to education of the children concerned, the Commission should bring that too under the ambit of its monitoring system, Dr. Muneer said.

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Right to Education to be reality in JK soon

Implementation, Litigation, Right to Education

09-01-2014

Greater Kashmir

The Right to Education (RTE) is expected be a reality in Jammu and Kashmir as the proposed legislation, guaranteeing children their right to quality elementary education, has been cleared by the Finance and Planning departments.
Highly placed sources in the state Education department informed Greater Kashmir that the Central Right to Education Act (RTEA) is likely to be adopted in totality in the State with prime focus on regulation of private schools and providing schools within the shortest possible distance to enable each and every child to have access to free primary education.
The legislation, presently prepared in the form of an Ordinance by the Higher Education Department, has been cleared by the Planning and Finance Departments and it has now been forwarded to the Law Department for vetting, sources said.
“The Ordinance has been prepared in consultation with the experts to ensure that the Central Act is adapted in letter and spirit and the benefit percolates to all,” they added.
The Law Department is studying the Ordinance to ensure it does not have any legal implications or loopholes. After examining the legalities of the proposed Ordinance, the Law Department will send it back to the Higher Education Department after which it will be placed before the Cabinet for final nod.
“We are awaiting clearance from the Law Department. The moment we receive it, it will be placed before the Cabinet,” Secretary Education, Hridesh Kumar Singh, told Greater Kashmir.
Meanwhile, sources informed that the prime focus of the government is to regulate the private schools regarding their fee structure, infrastructure, staff salary and other facilities being provided to the students.
“Many private schools in the state do not have the required infrastructure and other facilities as needed under the Right to Education Act,” they said adding, “They will be given some time to upgrade their infrastructure and make up for other requisite facilities.”
“Free and compulsory education up to 8th class, thrust on quality education, schools within the shortest possible distance, especially in far-flung areas and minimum rooms and teachers required for a school, are the other priority areas of the government,” sources said adding, “The government is also mulling to engage trained teachers only after a particular time.”

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Private Schools for Poor Pressured by Right to Education Act

Budget Private Schools, Implementation, Right to Education

Neha Thirani Bagri

Researcher/Reporter, New York Times

MUMBAI — In Dharavi, a Mumbai slum, a  ramshackle building houses the Bombay South Indian Adi-Dravida Sangh school, where 1,000 students from poor families take their classes in English, a language increasingly perceived as the key to a white-collar job.

Tuition at the school is 400 rupees, or $6, a month, which represents about three days’ pay for the students’ parents, but they’d rather send their children here rather than to the free local public school because the quality of education is better. “We want our children to fare well, but we don’t have the capacity to put them in schools with very high fees,” said P. Ganesan, who stitches clothes at a garment factory nearby.

However, this school is in danger of being shut down because of the Right to Education Act, introduced by the Indian government in 2009. The landmark legislation, which mandated free and compulsory education for all children from the ages of 6 and 14, ordered all schools to have infrastructure like a playground and separate toilets for boys, among other requirements, by March 31.

The two-floor structure that houses the Bombay South Indian Adi-Dravida Sangh School is topped by a corrugated iron roof and lacks a playground, sports equipment and a ramp for disabled children, which are all required under the law. While the school has a library, the teachers complained that it is understocked. Of the seven computers in the school’s computer room, only one is in working condition

Many education experts argue that the Right to Education Act, while lofty in its goals, does not pay attention to the ground realities of low-budget private schools. In a study of 15 budget private schools in New Delhi by the Center for Civil Society, it was found that to comply with the infrastructure requirements in the Right to Education Act, the schools would have to have an approximately four-fold increase in their fees, making them unaffordable for the section of society they currently serve.

The Bombay South Indian Adi-Dravida Sangh School is undergoing some renovations, putting up concrete walls between classrooms and adding a second floor, but it doesn’t have the funds to make all the changes required by the Right to Education Act.

“The R.T.E. regulations are good for students, but it is difficult to collect funds for the renovation because the fees are so low,” said Devraj Natarajan, treasurer of the board of trustees at Bombay South Indian Adi-Dravida Sangh School, referring to the legislation.

If these schools are closed because of the government’s regulations, many poor children may never find another place to learn, said Mari Arunachalam, the school’s principal. “Many parents who are not educated will let the children drop out of school and send them to work instead,” she said. “The children’s future will be spoiled — that should not happen.”

Schools that fail to comply with infrastructure regulations, which are enforced by the state governments, risk being either shut down or being forced to pay a hefty fine. “There are nearly 300,000 budget private schools across the country with an estimated 15 million students, almost all of which will not be able to fulfill these norms,” said Shantanu Gupta, senior coordinator for advocacy at the Center for Civil Society. 

Though public schools generally have better infrastructure than the low-cost private schools, they have a higher level of teacher absenteeism than their private counterparts, and English is not usually the medium of instruction. A survey of rural schools across India by the nonprofit ASER Center, published in 2012, showed that basic skills like reading and math were better among children attending private schools compared to those at public schools.

“In some places, parents are choosing to put their children in private schools because they feel that their children are not learning in public schools,” said Madhav Chavan, co-founder of Pratham, a nonprofit that works with primary school children. “The number of children attending these schools is growing each year.”

Experts in the field of education say that the emphasis on a school’s infrastructure does not take into account the learning outcomes of that school. “Infrastructure is really nice to have, and every child deserves to have access to good facilities, but it isn’t critical to actually getting an excellent education,” said Shaheen Mistri, the chief executive at Teach for India. “Measuring outcomes is significantly smarter than measuring inputs.”

She added that one solution might be to move toward making it necessary for children to have access to resources like a playground, rather than insist that each school builds one.

The critics of the Right to Education Act’s infrastructure requirements are not advocating that children take classes in unsafe conditions, but they say it is unfair to expect the schools to comply with the law in such a short period of time. Also, they point out, public schools that lack infrastructure will be subsidized by the government to make the necessary changes, while private schools will have to come up with the money on their own.

“The norms set down by the government are good, and in the long term it might push school authorities to provide better infrastructure,” said Ms. Arunachalam. “In the meantime, shutting down schools providing education to children who have less means is not the answer – they should give us time and help us.”

As schools across the country start to be inspected by their state education departments, education authorities are worried that this will make schools more vulnerable to bribery attempts by government officials.

“The inspection officers are not interested in helping the school fulfill the norms; they are looking for ways to find mistakes,” said Kishan Gangaram Vasala, president of the board of trustees for the Geeta Vikas Mandal, a budget private school in Govandi, a neighborhood in Mumbai. “They often threaten to shut down schools for not fulfilling the R.T.E. norms unless they are given bribes.”

Neha Thirani Bagri

The Bombay South Indian Adi-Dravida Sangh School in Dharavi in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The second story of the school is presently under construction.

The Mumbai city government has asked the state government to relax some of these requirements, said Manoj Kotak, chairman of the education committee of the municipal corporation that runs Mumbai. “There is a difference between implementing the Right to Education Act in other parts of the country and in a thickly populated city like Mumbai,” he said. “The scarcity of space and infrastructure makes it nearly impossible for schools that have been running for many years to fulfill these criteria.”

The western state of Gujarat has taken a flexible approach in enforcing the Right to Education Act, offering a possible alternative for other states to adopt. As per the Gujarat state government’s rules, the efficacy of a school is measured as the weighted average of four parameters: 70 percent is given to absolute and relative levels of student learning outcomes, 15 percent is given to nonacademic outcomes like sports and 15 percent is given to school factors like facilities and teacher qualifications.

While it remains unclear whether budget private schools that are not able to fulfill the infrastructure requirements will be allowed to remain open, the future of their students is uncertain.

“A nice classroom and facilities are important, but here in Dharavi there is less space so we make the most of what there is,” said Faiyaz Ahmed, 14, a student at the Bombay South Indian Adi-Dravida Sangh School whose family moved to Dharavi from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

He dreams of some day owning his own software company, like his idol, Narayana Murthy, the founder of the outsourcing giant Infosys. Faiyaz’s father is a mechanic and would like his son to take his studies further than he was able to.

“The teachers in a school are important,” said Faiyaz. “The building doesn’t matter.”

This blog was originally published in the New York Times Blog, India Ink and reprinted here with permission from the author. You can find the original article here.

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School violated RTE norms: Education officials Silver Oak school

Implementation, Right to Education

Times of India

4-01-2014

NASHIK: Vasudha Kurnawal, assistant commissioner (education) of the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) and R S Mogal, zilla parishad education officer (primary) filed a police complaint against the Silver Oak School for alleged violation of the Right to Education Act, 2009, at Sarkarwada police station, on Friday. They also submitted an application seeking a First Information Report.

The school had not permitted seven of its primary students to attend classes from December 6, 2013 in its Sharanpur branch and three secondary students at its Chandsi branch, allegedly due to non-payment of fees and three students for the past and current academic year.

The parents of the students, employees of the school, had been demanding that their wards be given concession in fees. “Now that we are suspended, we get only half the salary. How can we afford the fees?” said the parents.

On December 9, Kurnawal was allegedly mistreated by the headmistress of the school when she went to inquire about the issue. She submitted a report to the deputy director of education about the episode. A four-member inquiry committee had been constituted by the ZP primary education office and the report was submitted to the deputy director of education last week. The committee had suggested that the school be derecognized.

On Friday, Kurnawal, Mogal and assistant director of education R R Marwadi visited the school and held discussions with the management about taking the students in. The students, their parents and some activists of Forum Against Commercialisation of Education waited outside the school through the day.

In the evening, the education officers and MLA Nitin Bhosale (MNS) went to the Sarkarwada police station and filed a written complaint against the school.

“Apart from violating the RTE Act, the school does not have approval for the teachers and the headmistress. Under sections 16 and 17 (1) and (2) of the RTE Act, the education officers have filed a complaint against the school. It is wrong to take children out in the middle of the academic year. It could amount to non-bailable offence,” said Marwadi.

Bhosale said that the Sarkarwada police said that the application will be studied and a FIR lodged after conducting an inquiry. “The students who have been issued school leaving certificates are from the primary section and the secondary section headmistress has signed on these certificates, which is wrong,” said Bhosale.

“The students had been issued reminder letters for paying the fees on a number of occasions, but they did not pay up the fees. It is the school’s policy to offer a percentage waiver in fees to those who fill up scholarship forms and 10-15 percent of them get the waiver. These students are the children of our ex-employees. They have been suspended and must have sought advice from people who told them that they need not pay the fees, since the school cannot take their wards out as per the RTE,” said Jesus Lal, chairman of the school.

“In July 2013, the parents went to the Labour Court and brought an ex-party stay and we were not given any notification. We went to the High Court asking how such an order could be issued to a private unaided minority school. Hearings have taken place and the case is still going on and the final hearing will take place over the next three or four days. The RTE Act is not applicable to minority schools in totality. Every person should admit their wards to schools according to what they can afford,” said Lal.

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‘Keep tabs on RTE norms compliance by schools’

Implementation, Right to Education

Times of India

13-12-2013

KOLHAPUR: The primary education department of the  Kolhapur zilla parishad (ZP) has asked 12 block development officers (BDO) to monitor the progress of infrastructure norms under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 in schools across the district.

According to officials, the primary education department has been consistently notifying the BDOs in the 12 talukas to keep a closer look on the compliance of the RTE infrastructure norms from September. Any school that fails to comply with the norms may lose recognition by the state government.

Every school has to fulfill ten infrastructure norms, including construction of a boundary wall, toilets, providing water facility etc, to be recognized by the education department under the RTE Act.

A primary education department official said, “The department in its survey in August had found out that only 209 schools in the district had complied with all the RTE norms. So it has asked BDOs to keep a consistent watch to make sure no school misses the deadline to comply with the norms. The department has been keeping tabs on the schools from September.”

The official, however, failed to provide the statistics of the present status of schools vis-a-vis RTE compliance. “A thorough report on the compliance status will be generated only after December 31. The department will review the whole situation only in the first week of January,” added the official.

The Kolhapur division, which consists of Sangli, Satara, and Kolhapur districts, has a total of 3,442 primary and secondary schools, of which only 209 were found to be in compliance with all the 10 RTE norms in the survey conducted by the department in August. The directorate of primary education has set a deadline of December 31 for all schools to comply with the norms.

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Unrecognized schools need fee hike to apply RTE rules

Implementation, Right to Education

22-12-2013

Times of India

NEW DELHI

Vulnerable since the deadline for implementation of the Right to Education Act 2009 was up in April, unrecognized ‘budget’ private schools are a long way from meeting most conditions for recognition. The Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society has studied the ‘Cost of Compliance to Norms and Standards set forward by Sections 18 and 19 of RTE’ and found it works out to a four-fold increase in student fees.

In most cases, land norms specified in Master Plan Delhi (2021) got in the way of recognition. In March, the Delhi government reduced minimum land required from 800 sq m to 200 sq m, but hundreds of schools still don’t qualify. Right to Education Act 2009 allows only recognized schools to function and also sets exacting standards for recognition. Budget schools, catering to students in some of the poorest (and unauthorized) areas, fall short on nearly all counts. Those surveyed met only one norm-all had municipal water supply.

Researchers selected 15 budget primary schools in Delhi. Budget schools are defined as “schools that charge less than the per-child expenditure of the state government in the public school system”, that is, less than Rs 1,190.

Using “conservative estimates”, they have tried to compute the minimum expense each school will have to incur to upgrade facilities to  RTE standards and from that, the fee increase each student can expect. “An average four-fold fee hike will have to be imposed on the students,” says the paper released at CCS’ annual School Choice National Conference.

Schools may also close, leaving, CCS estimates, nearly 1,00,000 kids out of school. Government institutions are already overcrowded. The Shailaja Chandra Committee’s ‘Review Committee on the Delhi School Educaiton Act and Rules 1973’ says Delhi has 1,593 unrecognized private schools catering to 1.64 lakh students.

“The total average cost per school was estimated at Rs 24 lakh,” explains the study. At an 18% interest rate, each school will have to pay an  EMI of Rs 35,521 over 30 years, it adds.

“Halving class size would mean doubling the number of teachers and will have a significant impact on education budgets,” says the study. Compliance also means at least some teachers not meeting minimum qualification requirements will be replaced but as the researchers observe, “teacher characteristics and qualifications are poor predictors of better student outcomes.”

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