In the FIRST ARTICLE of the series we saw what a game changer the Right to Education Act was envisioned to be. But did those intentions translate into on-ground action? Little reason to believe so. The dismal rates of admission through RTE25 in most states shows the failure in delivery. What are the issues in implementation? Is it the government machinery? The private schools? Or the existing social norms and caste prejudices? All of these and much more contribute to the poor progress of the RTE Act.
All states have constituted their own rules for the implementation of the RTE Act. With no one uniform rules for all states, the states have the freedom to set its own terms for the implementation of the Act based on the conditions of elementary education and resource availability with the state. This move offers flexibility but it also leaves scope for misinterpretations and ambiguity at the time of implementation. Provisions such as free school uniforms and books for students and transportation facilities are vaguely defined. Even basic information such as valid documents required to avail benefits under RTE for many states are not entirely clear. If the framed rules are themselves ambiguous then the misinformation that trickles down would only have dire consequences.
Another issue with the implementation is the lack of awareness among the targeted group. The government has been unable to spread the word about RTE among the masses. Though there have been a few media campaigns by the MHRD for RTE, the effort at the state level has been lacking.
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The local Education Offices only go as far as having a small advertisement published in the newspaper regarding the launch of the admission procedure through RTE. There is a shortage of workforce available with the education departments across the country. Also, most Education Offices are ill equipped to handle the complicated admission procedure and don’t have an efficient system in place. Moreover the body responsible for Grievance redressal regarding RTE at the centre and state level, NCPCR and SCPCR resp. are toothless in terms of the powers they hold.
While most private schools, although bound by the law, are open to reserving 25% of their seats for the disadvantaged, there are few schools who are still very much averse to the idea of an inclusive classroom. Most of the schools which openly oppose accepting kids through RTE are still stuck in their delusionally elitist notions of caste and class. It is ironical that we entrust these very schools with the responsibility of creating a future free of caste/class biases. Then there are schools which deny admission to these underprivileged kids simply because these kids don’t have enough monetary and instructional backing from home.
A major reason why many schools are sceptical about reserving seats is because many states have not been able to timely compensate the schools for these 25% seats as promised due to various inefficiencies.
These are just a few of the issues that affect effective implementation of RTE25. Through the efforts of many dedicated government officials, supporting schools, and hopeful and gritty parents, we have seen that these challenges have been overcome at many places across India. But it is clear that making many systemic changes along with an open and optimistic attitude towards these kids would go a long way in keeping the spirit of RTE section 12(1)(c) alive