Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act – 2009 (RTE) came in to force from April 1, 2010, with the aim of providing free and compulsory education to all children aged between 6 and 14 years. Though the Act came in to force, changes taken place in the state is yet to be seen. Due to lack of awareness among people, strong political will and private schools lobby, responsible governments (Union and State) have totally failed in effective implementation of the act. Karnataka state has even failed in notifying the rules. As a result many issues are arising at schools which are direct violation of the RTE Act–2009. Even after witnessing many such issues arising at schools, neither education department officials nor school authorities are taking appropriate initiatives to resolve them. There is no proper redressal mechanism in the state to solve these issues at district and state level. NGOs working at grassroots level also are facing problems in solving the issues due to lack of proper redressal system at state level.
Though, there are many complaints on RTE violations filed with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) few cases have been solved and many of them are still pending with the commission. In order to speed up the problem solving process in the state, it is necessary to strengthen the other mechanisms at district level to address issues pertaining to RTE violation.
To create wide spread awareness among people on the provisions of RTE Act and to provide a platform to depose cases of violation of RTE, CACL-K in collaboration with SICHREM had organised a Public hearing on RTE and its redressal system on March 21, 2012, at Senate Hall, Bangalore University Campus, Bangalore. The programme is also acted as a tool to pressurise the state to address violations relating to RTE. About 100 participants from various parts of the state took part in the public hearing, where 11 cases of gross RTE violations were deposed before the jury.
The Jury members for the day were Dr. H.S Dore Swamy (Freedom Fighter), Ms. Kathyayini Chamaraj, (Child Rights Activist, Civic), Mr. Mathews Philip (Karnataka State Representative-RTE, NCPCR), Mr. Vasudeva Sharma (Member, KSCPCR).
The Public Hearing started with a presentation of photo snaps on the situation in the background of RTE Act implementation. The reality check reflected upon the violation of RTE Act includes, children engaged in manual work at school premises, children forced to serve coffee and food to teachers, scavenging school toilets, cleaning the school campus, washing huge utensils used to serve mid day meal, poor quality of mid day meal, children washing and cleaning vehicles of teachers and poor infrastructure in schools, etc,.
Mr. Lakshapathi, Core Committee Member, CACL-K, introduced the subject relating to the status of RTE and its implementation in Karnataka. He highlighted various violations under RTE. He further spoke about school drop outs, the reasons behind it and a few incidents of behaviour of teachers on students. Mr. Lakshapathi questioned that how can students be engaged in manual works at school premises by teachers. He added saying that, the lobby of private schools against RTE is a major drawback, which has lead to privatization of education and it simultaneously affects the right of free and compulsory education of 80,00,000 (Eighty lakh) children from 50,000 schools across Karnataka. While concluding his introduction Mr. Lakshapathi condemned the efforts of the state to close down the schools in the name of merging sighting less number of students in schools.
Kinds of cases deposed at the public hearing:
- Teachers extracting manual work from children during class hours.
- Child severely injured due to collapse of classroom ceiling.
- Children being used to sell Newspaper during class hours.
- Corporal Punishment in schools
- Denial of Admission
- Denial of issuing hall tickets to take SSLC and PUC exams
- A child severely injured due to collapse of the Compound wall.
- Children forced to serve teachers (washing bike and serving tea and food)
- School authorities demanding caste certificates from children at the time of enrolment.
The hearing was concluded with the following recommendation by the Jury members,
- The state should notify the RTE rules immediately, without any further delay, and enable lakhs of disadvantaged children to get a right to free and compulsory education.
- Redressal mechanism for reporting violations of RTE must be made clear under the Act.
- There must be a separate cell to resolve, monitor and implement the issues related to RTE at KSCPCR.
- There should be a special committee to address the issues relating to infrastructure. Further, the head-masters of schools should be held responsible for addressing the issues and to register FIRs against the violators of child rights, for example, engineers, contractors, and School Development & Monitoring Committee, if they are responsible for the violations.
- Education Department to evolve guidelines to address any accidents to children that occur within the school campus and also about the available assistance and compensations provided by the government.
- Obtaining and issuing of caste certificates to children should be the responsibility of the school authorities. School authorities should not demand it from the parents.
- There is a need for wide publicity with respect to RTE, by using various means and appropriate IEC materials and capacity building exercises.
- Trainings on RTE must be conducted in order to make people understand about the main features of the Act, actions to be taken if RTE is violated and the existing redressal mechanisms.
- KSCPCR is said to have completed enquiry into a few cases of violation of child rights in schools. In a few cases action has been initiated by citing Karnataka Civil Service Rules (KCSR). There is a need to make use of such cases to educate the school authorities on actions to be taken if child rights are violated in schools and hostels.
- RTE watch groups to be established at various levels such as, village, gram panchayat, clusters, wards, etc.
- The grievances or the complaints lodged must reach the grievance cell as and when it is filed; if delayed, there are chances of justice being denied to children.
- There is a need for continuous discussions with respect to RTE among people at various levels; this is in order to encourage and to spread the essence of RTE to the larger public.
- Authorities such as CWCs and KSCPCR should not hesitate to take up suo motu cases to address various violations of RTE. Similarly, police also should take cognisance of child rights violations.
- There is a need for life skills education and healthy sex education at school level. This has to be incorporated in the school curriculum and taught in the formal education.
- Inclusive education must benefit differently-abled children. Although these children are enrolled in schools, they are prone to be school dropouts. In order to address this issue, every school must ensure that after enrolling children with special needs to schools, the school authorities strive towards retaining them in schools and ensure that they complete their elementary education.
Note: According to a Social Audit conducted by SICHREM in 47 schools of 5 wards in Bangalore city, more that 2000 SC/ST children have not applied for scholarships because of the complications in getting the caste certificate and the corruption involved in the system.