What the Chil­dren Are Say­ing

The RTE Act has been a tough learn­ing curve for all stake­hold­ers. Here’s a chron­i­cle of their ex­pe­ri­ences

Tehelka - - FRONT PAGE -

This sum­mer, many par­ents in ur­ban In­dia are wor­ried about whether the 25 per­cent quota for un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren in pri­vate schools will snatch away their child’s right to an ed­u­ca­tion. In nearby slums, par­ents of chil­dren with lit­tle or no school­ing are feel­ing hopeful that the 12 April Supreme Court or­der to al­low their chil­dren into pri­vate schools will en­ti­tle them to a bet­ter fu­ture. How­ever, this is only one small slice of the complicated Right to Ed­u­ca­tion ( RTE) story.

Many par­ents are not aware that RTE en­ables ev­ery child be­tween ages 6 and 14 the right to a free ed­u­ca­tion of a cer­tain ba­sic min­i­mum qual­ity. They don’t know that RTE en­ti­tles them to form man­age­ment com­mit­tees and set goals for their child’s school and mon­i­tor the use of funds. And that Pan­chay­ati Raj in­sti­tu­tions at the block, dis­trict and vil­lage lev­els are the re­dres­sal mech­a­nisms to go to if a teacher hits a child or doesn’t turn up for work.

While much has been writ­ten about RTE in the past two years since Hu­man Re­sources De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Kapil Sibal proudly an­nounced its en­act­ment, the peo­ple it is meant to serve haven’t had enough space to say what they have been through. How many kids who are strug­gling un­der the lamp­light and in the dark are re­ally get­ting to learn to read and write? How many that did crash through that glass ceil­ing suc­cess­fully in­te­grate with kids with cars and ipods? What has that in­ter­ac­tion pro­duced? These pages won’t have all the an­swers. But they do chron­i­cle some very telling ex­pe­ri­ences. Of par­ents and chil­dren and also ed­u­ca­tion­ists, all grap­pling with the brave new idea of the RTE and its var­i­ous fail­ings on the ground.

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