Impact of Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009: A Note with special reference to Orissa.
The 93rd Amendment relating to the fundamental right to education assumes special significance at this juncture. This makes education of children in the age group of 6- 14 yrs, compulsory. As a result, the new article 21A in part-III of the constitution states that: “the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6-14 years in such manner as the state may, by law, determine”. In compliance with Article 21A the legislation the children’s right to free and compulsory education act 2009 was approved by the cabinet on the 2nd of July 2009, introduced and passed in the Rajya Sabha on the 15th of December 2008 and the 4th of August 2009 in the Loka Sabha. It received presidential assent and was notified as law on the 3rd of September 2009. Model rule has been drafted and circulated to the state governments for appropriate action and Gazette notification has been made to implement the act from April 1st 2010.
In spite of many flaws, it will definitely have an impact if it is properly implemented. However, unless sustained effort to create awareness in people of this constitutional provision is made, they will not be able to take advantage of this opportunity.
It has been identified that the following factors may lead to non- implementation of the Act. These are:
1.The Act advocates for a minimum of 2 teachers in a school. Teachers-student ratio should not be a criteria for schools having less than 60 students.
2.Shortage of trained teachers: There is a huge shortage of trained teachers in Orissa. Under the Act an estimation of 5 years has been mentioned to arrange training of all teachers. However, there is shortage of teachers’ training institutes in Orissa to meet the requirement.
2. Appointment of Sikshasahayak (On the basis of contractual payment); Government has no plan to appoint regular teachers in the schools. The Act shows no mention of this. As a result the government will appoint teachers only on the basis of contractual payments. In Orissa we have around 52000 (51,239) teachers posts vacant in elementary schools. The Minister of School and Mass Education has already declared to fill in these vacancies by appointing teachers on contractual basis. In a school one teacher receives Rs.15000.00 per month and others obtain Rs.4000/- Under these conditions it is impossible to motivate the underpaid teachers to work with the same level of motivation as well-paid teachers. This will definitely have a negative impact and we can not expect quality education under such circumstances.
3. The Appointment of teachers is done by Zilla Parishad at present time, which should instead be done by Gram Panchayats. The selection of candidates for secondary training schools and District Institute of Educational Training is based on marks and come from all over Orissa. As a result there will be huge shortage of trained teachers for under developed areas. If teachers are appointed from other districts there will be teachers’ absentism in schools. For tribal areas the impact will be more disastrous, as children from tribal communities do not understand language of teachers who will be appointed from outside.
4. It has been mentioned in the act that the medium of Instruction shall be as far as possible in mother tongue. As it has been mentioned “as far as possible” the state government may not consider tribal languages as mother tongues for tribal children. As a result further exclusion may take place in the case of tribal children.
Tribal people constitute around 23% of the total population in Orissa. Tribal children feel alienated in mainstream schools. An alarmingly large number of tribal children drop out of school because they are not able to follow the standard dialect, Oriya, the official language of the state, which is used in schools. The language used in their community is completely different from this dialect. The teachers do not make any special effort to communicate the lessons or the information to these children in a manner that will enable them to grasp it. Also, the topics covered in the textbooks do not at any point relate to their lives and environment.
Therefore, tribal groups should be made aware so that they will demand the medium of instruction be in mother tongues.
5. Finance provision has not been made as per the requirement (based on the assessment) of the Act by the center. In this pretext state governments may not feel accountable to make required financial provision in the budget. The central government proposes state government to share 35% of the total expenses. This is unacceptable to many state governments. There is a reduction of the state budget on elementary education, which proves that the state government gives less priority to education, which is vital for ensuring all round progress of the state.
6. There is an increase in the number of English-medium private schools, which have an elitist agenda. These schools further demoralize the tribal people and the underprivileged. This Act fully recognizes the role of private schools. Nothing has been mentioned on controlling them.
7. The Government of Orissa may declare Gram Panchayats/Municipal councils as ‘local authority’, but Gram Panchayats in the schedule areas are not functioning properly due to the ignorance and illiteracy of villagers. Elementary education has been declared a fundamental right as per the Ninety-third constitutional amendment, but it has made no impact at the grassroots level. If proper care is not taken, the act may not have an impact.
8. The Sarva Siksha Abhijan (SSA) programme is also being implemented in all the thirty districts of Orissa. The District Primary Education Programme was implemented in 8 districts of the state during the period 1995 to 2002. In spite of various programmes implemented by the Government of Orissa, the educational situation of rural and tribal Orissa remains bleak.
9. VOs involvement in SSA is negligible.
In this context, Sikshasandhan realises that unless and until awareness is created at the grassroots level, constitutional amendments will have little or no effect in rural and tribal areas. After 10 years of implementation of the project, the awareness level of the community on Sarva Siksha Abhijan is almost negligible. Nothing has been done to strengthen school management committees. These awareness activities could have been done through VOs. However, the government attitude towards NGO’s is negative.
10. Populist measures such as hostel, increasing of stipend, dress and bi-cycle for girls, special schools for girls (KGVB), model schools etc. taken up by the Government will not help the improvement of the education situation, rather it will promote a dual system of education.
Both the central and state governments are going on declaring/launching various schemes which are populist in nature. Without solving the basic problems in education such as: appointment of sufficient number regular teachers in schools, strengthening accountability mechanisms, ensuring community participation, these populist measures are not going to solve problems. Questions that arise here are (1) Why only few schools will be model school? (2) Why not all schools will have equal standard with minimum facilities?
11. Decentralisation of curriculum and NCF2005. If spirit of NCF2005 will be followed there is ample scope for essential flexibility, diversity, innovation and creativity at all levels (even an individual school). But in the Act, nothing has been mentioned to decentralise course curriculum. Unless we decentralise preparation of curriculum, we can address the issue of exclusion.
12. Reservation of 25% children from weaker section in English medium pvt. school? The purpose of doing this was to avoid social segregation. However, making 25% reservation for socially excluded children in the pvt. Unaided schools will not solve the problems. Rather children will have inferiority complex and they may face psychological problems. Why children from elitist background will not learn with children of weaker sections.
The following activities can be conducted by civil society groups and VOs:
1. The central rule to be examined in detail and a set of recommendations may be made (quickly)
2. Massive Awareness programmes on the various provisions under the Act (needs collaboration and networking)
3. Capacity building of SMC and local authorities (Gram Panchayat/Municipality). After gazette notification of state rules, SMC will be constituted again. Voluntary agencies should have a role in the process of selection of SMC members.
4. A current survey of children can be conducted to know the actual status of children. Based on the survey, conducting bridge courses for out of school children can be demanded. Receiving special training is a right as per the act.
5. Remedial Support/ special programme for children belonging to the under-privileged community
6. Engagement of NGOs with teachers training schools/colleges.
7. VOs can take one block or some G.P.s of a block and see how this act can be implemented.
8. Alliance building at state level to receive feedback from the field. Engagement with the government, media, civil societies and intellectuals in the light of feedback to be received from the field while implementing the Act.
Immediate tasks before civil societies, VOs and teachers union:
1. Oppose appointment of teachers on contractual basis
2. Advocates for appointment of at least three teachers per school
3. Examination of central rule and Act
4. Demand for providing financial support for awareness and capacity building of community and local authority through VO’s.
5. A representative from local CBOs/NGOs should be in SMC.