‘The State is ab­di­cat­ing its re­spon­si­bil­ity’

AN­NIE KOSHY | 46 | PRIN­CI­PAL

Tehelka - - PERSPECTIVES - REVATI LAUL

What do you want from Union HRD Min­is­ter Kapil Sibal? We want hon­esty of pur­pose from the min­is­ter. He should def­i­nitely try to put into place what the Con­sti­tu­tion prom­ises as rights to the peo­ple, most im­por­tantly the right to an equal and qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

Is RTE re­ally in­clu­sive in the way it’s been framed? RTE is not as in­clu­sive as the Cen­tre claims. In­clu­sion is about chang­ing the sys­tem to suit the child. The child is at the cen­trestage. RTE of­fers one kind of ed­u­ca­tion, which it con­sid­ers the best, and asks all chil­dren to fit into that sys­tem. The minute you speak of dif­fer­ent kinds of schools, you are ac­knowl­edg­ing that there is a hi­er­ar­chy. I’m talk­ing of Ken­driya Vidyalayas and Sar­vo­dayas. When you ad­mit that there is a hi­er­ar­chy, you are en­dors­ing their ex­is­tence.

ST MARY’S SCHOOL, SAF­DAR­JUNG EN­CLAVE, NEW DELHI

What is your take on chil­dren from un­der­priv­i­leged back­grounds get­ting into pri­vate schools, es­pe­cially since your school has taken chil­dren from these back­grounds? First and fore­most, it needs to be said that pri­vate un­aided schools don’t step back from their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of ed­u­cat­ing the un­der­priv­i­leged. They have done it in the past and will do it in the fu­ture. A di­verse pro­file in the class­room is a won­der­ful way for kids to un­der­stand In­dia’s di­ver­sity.

But the State is re­spon­si­ble for the ed­u­ca­tion of its peo­ple. Now the State seems to want to ab­di­cate its re­spon­si­bil­ity to the pri­vate sec­tor. If so, then that is some­thing they should openly say.

If you tell me to take in a child from an eco­nom­i­cally weaker sec­tion and if I want to give that child ac­cess, eq­uity and qual­ity, I will have to col­lect a lot of money. It is not just fees. We have street chil­dren in our schools but they can’t keep their uni­forms clean be­cause they don’t have a place to wash their clothes; and that is if they get any water. So, if they come dirty, they will not be ac­cepted. I have to make sure that this does not hap­pen. So, now they bathe in the school and the school gets their clothes cleaned. Then are they eat­ing well? Be­cause they have to stay back aer school for re­me­dial be­cause there’s no one at home to teach them. Do they have food? No they don’t. So the school has to pro­vide lunch. Who does the re­me­dial? I have to hire an ex­tra teacher for that. Who pays for it? The school. Ed­u­ca­tion is not just aca­demics, it’s also nu­tri­tion, hy­giene, fam­ily life, men­tal and emo­tional well-be­ing. It’s an un­end­ing ex­pen­di­ture. Be­cause ed­u­ca­tion is about a whole life that’s built around it to sup­port it. That’s not cheap. It’s not money, it’s time and at­ti­tude. So the State should at least give some money to sup­port the right at­ti­tude.

I’m pro-di­ver­sity. But to do it prop­erly, the State should fund it or ac­knowl­edge that it is ab­di­cat­ing its re­spon­si­bil­ity. I have yet to hear of any great scheme to raise the stan­dards in gov­ern­ment schools. Who will make gov­ern­ment schools ac­count­able?

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