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RTE is there, but proper education still far away

Right to Education

NEW DELHI: About 15 non-profit organizations went around 60 schools in the city only to find that the right to education is still a distant dream for many. Provisions of the Right to education Act notwithstanding, dirty toilets, shortage of books and staff, broken benches, no playground and absenteeism are still the major issues in many Delhi government schools.

The visit follows a recent order by the Central Information Commission (CIC) that allows citizens to inspect government schools on the last day of any month. According to the order, all schools of the Delhi government will have to make available their records and documents on admission, attendance, budget allocation and expenditure, details of scholarships, and other registers for such inspections.

The different organizations that took up the cudgels were a part of the Delhi Right to Education Forum. They visited government schools in areas like Munirka, Janakpuri, Najafgarh, Chandni Chowk, Shastri Park, Kalyanpuri and Trilokpuri. It was in the east that the condition of schools was the most dismal with dilapidated buildings and shortage of teachers.

“It was only in east Delhi that many school authorities refused to let us inspect their premises. The ones where our teams were allowed in were really in a very bad shape. Apparently, east Delhi schools have more students compared to other areas. So there is definitely a pressure on the infrastructure. Twenty-five hundred students and just three or four toilets in a school is not a comfortable situation,” said Saurabh Sharma from JOSH – Joint Operation for Social Help – that had filed a complaint with CIC after which the order was passed on July 29.

Sharma and his team inspected schools in the Jama Masjid area, where one common problem was the lack of any playground. “As we do not have much space, we encourage students to take up only indoor games,” said an official from Government Boys Senior Secondary School in Matia Mahal. The only play area available on the premises has been turned into concrete and is usually used for the morning assembly.

In another nearby school, the computer lab for students has been lying shut for over a year. “There are no teachers in the school who can teach computer. Earlier, we used to get funds from the government to hire compute teachers from an outside agencybut that fund has been stopped,” said an official. who did not wish to be named.

Both these schools are located in the constituency of HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who implemented RTE last year and is a keen advocate of integration of IT with education.

Most of these schools recorded about 50% attendance of students on Friday, which, officials claimed, was a usual turnout. Also many schools did not have any clerical staff. “Our peon is employed with the school but works in the Delhi secretariat. There is nobody to ring the bell for dispersal or even to serve water. Teachers can’t be expected to do this,” the official said.

According to JOSH, they also found that there was huge delay in the distribution of the textbooks. The teams under the Delhi RTE Forum now plan to reach out to more schools on the last day of October.

The Times of India, 3 October 2011

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