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Education Act finally to be notified on April 1

Come April 1, children in the 6-14 age-group will finally get their right to education. Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal has decided to notify the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 The Right to Education Act (RTE) that was passed by Parliament in August 2009 after several abortive attempts is all set to become a reality with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) expected to notify it on April 1. Though the Act was gazetted soon after its enactment, a separate notification was mandated in the body of the law for it to actually come into effect. According to Section 1(3) of the Act, ?it shall come into force on such date as the central government may, by notification in the official gazette, appoint?. That date has now been fixed for April 1, 2010. The Act that promises free and compulsory education to all children aged between 6 and 14 years was stuck over Centre and state negotiations on who will bear the implied financial burden: a staggering Rs 1.71 lakh crore in the next five years. The HRD ministry is learnt to have zeroed in on a 65:35 Centre-state fund-sharing formula to implement the ambitious provisions of the Act, it is learnt. A huge allocation to facilitate its further implementation is also in the offing in the next Union budget, ministry sources say. The notification will bring to an end the long journey which saw its first official milestone in December 2002 when the fundamental right to education was enacted. While efforts to bring compulsory education for children in the age-group 6-14 out of the directive principles of state policy and make it a fundamental right predate 2002, governments in subsequent years have made several attempts to pass the Right to Education Act -- a law to operationalise the fundamental right to education. While discussions on the funding formula have been on for months now, with state governments reluctant to shoulder too big a share, some states suggested a 90:10 Centre-state fund-sharing arrangement. Marathon meetings between the HRD ministry, Planning Commission and the PMO finally led to a consensus on a 65:35
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formula. A 75:25 formula proposed by the HRD ministry and a 60:40 fund-sharing approach were also being considered. A final meeting with the prime minister late last month is learnt to have helped arrive at a 65:35 funding pattern. What this will imply is that all the states put together will have to pitch in with Rs 30,000 crore or so over the next five years, which the Centre considers feasible. State governments, however, may not find the formula very agreeable but will have to be brought around to the view that states must prioritise education. The Centre will be allocating a substantial amount for RTE implementation in this budget through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme that will serve as an implementation channel for the Act so that construction of buildings and recruitment of teachers can begin. An amount of Rs 34,000 crore has already been allocated to the SSA for the next two years of the Eleventh Plan period. With the recession constraining resources during the plan, a larger allocation towards implementation of the provisions of the Act will come only in the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, say ministry officials. The model rules for implementation of the Act, as approved by the HRD ministry and circulated to all states last month, highlight the responsibilities of state governments, local authorities, school management, parents and teachers. The rules say that state governments or local authorities will determine neighbourhood schools by undertaking household surveys and school mappings. Such agencies shall ensure that no child is subjected to caste, class, religious or gender abuse at school. Local authorities will conduct household surveys and maintain a record of all children in their jurisdiction. The record will contain detailed information on children and their parents, and will specify whether they belong to a weaker sections or disadvantaged group, or have a disability. The state government or local authority will identify children with disabilities and children from disadvantaged groups every year. Unaided and private schools shall ensure that children from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups shall not be segregated from other children in the classroom, nor shall their classes be held in places and timings different from classes held for the other children. Such children shall not be treated differently from the rest of the children in any manner pertaining to entitlements and facilities like textbooks, uniforms, library, ICT facilities, extra-curricular activities and sports, the rules say.
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The school management committee or local authority will identify drop-outs or out-ofschool children above six years of age and admit them in classes appropriate to their age after special training. The duration of the training shall be for three months and can be extended to two years. After admission, these children will continue to receive special attention by teachers for their successful integration into the class ?academically and emotionally,? the rules say. The state government and local authorities will establish primary schools within a walking distance of 1 km from the neighbourhood. In case of Class VI to VIII children, the school should be within a walking distance of 3 km from the neighbourhood. Private schools will reserve 25% of their seats for poor children, and provide free education to them. The government will reimburse the cost according to the per-child expenditure fixed by it. The rules prescribe a formula to calculate per-child expenditure. The annual recurring expenditure incurred by the state government on elementary education in respect to all schools established, owned or controlled by it or by the local authority, divided by the total number of children enrolled in all such schools, shall be the per-child expenditure. In the absence of schools in small hamlets, the state government shall make adequate arrangements like free transportation and residential facilities. For physically challenged children, the state government will make arrangement for their smooth transport and schooling. The states are now expected to draw up their own rules based on these model rules for implementation of the Act. However, many organisations like the All-India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE), which has been concerned over the rapidly deteriorating state of the education system from the pre-primary stage to higher and technical education, are critical of the RTE Act. ?It is designed to enable the state to abdicate its constitutional obligation towards providing elementary education (Class I-VIII) of equitable quality to all children in the 614-year age-group,? the Forum has said in a press release issued in New Delhi recently. Primary objections to the RTE Act 2009 include: It will demolish the entire government school system except schools in certain elite categories (for example, kendriya vidyalayas, navodaya vidyalayas, the Eleventh Plan's 6,000 model schools, and similar elite schools of states/UT
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governments). The Act will provide neither free education nor education of equitable quality. Rather, it will legitimise and maintain the multi-layered school system built through the World Bank's District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) during the 1990s, and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in the current decade. The central agenda of the Act is clearly to privatise and commercialise the school system through neo-liberal schemes such as public private partnerships (PPPs), school vouchers, adoption of schools by corporate houses, religious bodies and NGOs. The Forum wants the government to replace the RTE ACT 2009 with a new Act drafted in the framework of a 'common school system based on neighbourhood schools' in consonance with the basic spirit and principles enshrined in the Constitution, and review the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act (2002) with a view to providing the fundamental right to free and compulsory education of equitable quality to all children until the age of 18, that is, until Class XII, including early childhood care and preprimary education. Moreover, it wants the government to incorporate a constitutional guarantee within the Act for providing adequate funding to the entire school system, including early childhood care and pre-primary education. Source: The Indian Express, February 13, 2010 Press Trust of India, February 13, 2010 The Hindu, February 12, 2010 http://www.indiaedunews.net, February 2010

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A school for everyone


By Anuradha Kumar A new take on private schools in developing countries, which sees them not as moneymaking machines exploiting the poor, but as a much needed asset that can help fulfil the goal of a decent education for all The Beautiful Tree: A personal journey into how the world's poorest people are educating themselves, by James Tooley, Penguin India, 2009, pages 302 In his autobiography, My Experiments with Truth, Mahatma Gandhi writes of the visit of a school inspector. The teacher was anxious that every pupil he tutored got his spellings right and so when the young Mohandas misspelled the word 'kettle', the teacher did his best to prompt him or hint that he cheat from a classmate who had the correct spelling. The school inspector's visit has formed a motif for several stories in the subcontinent. Once a year, government school inspectors continue to make their mandated visit to government schools and teachers make students brush up their knowledge. The school inspectors make up one rung of the private school system ? a very powerful rung. School inspectors have the responsibility of visiting every school in their jurisdiction to ensure that these run according to set government regulations. Among many other things in his very evocative book on the world of private schooling, The Beautiful Tree, James Tooley talks of these regulations in relation to the world of private schooling as he sees it across various countries of the developing world. His wide sweeping gaze begins with India, and moves over Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and also China. Wherever he begins his story, he notices the overt denial on the part of government or education officials of the existence of private schools, and the ostensible absence of such schools. But everywhere the evidence that greets him after a detailed, close search is the same: private schools exist, and in total contradiction to what experts believe, such schools appear to be always the first and the most preferred choice of poor parents. Where public schools fail Tooley chanced on private schools in Hyderabad while on a research visit. The initiative, dedication and enthusiasm shown by the small private entrepreneurs who ran these schools tucked away in hidden parts of the old city, impressed him. They were
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genuinely driven by the need to do something to promote learning and poor people benefited most from these private schools. Poor parents, as Tooley learnt wherever he went, were willing to pay a price because in government schools not only was the infrastructure bad or poorly maintained, but teachers were frequently absent, and worse, the teaching was abysmally poor. The teachers just did not have time to attend to every child's needs. As other studies on the failure of public schools in the developing world have brought out time and again, teachers are absent or are not motivated; the pupil-teacher ratio is not conducive; teachers are not accountable to the school and function in rigid unions and thus, more often than not, children are often abandoned to their own devices. Also, government schools simply do not exist or are non-functional in remote, relatively inaccessible regions such as tribal dominated areas. Teachers are not willing to travel to faraway areas. They also have government duties to perform, such as during elections or gathering census data. The NGO, Pratham conducts an annual state of the education survey (the ASER reports) and its reports almost uniformly present a disturbing image of the limited attainments of children in public or recognised schools. These aren't children in the exclusive and expensive private schools but those everywhere else, in functional government schools or even smaller recognised private schools. Even at the age of nine, children in several states in Orissa, Bihar and even relatively better developed Karnataka, were not able to spell their own name, as a Pratham report of 2008 brings out. Tooley details his surprise visits to schools in Nigeria and Kenya where he chanced on classes where the teacher was either blatantly napping, reading the newspaper, or otherwise just not there. Strangely, Tooley also finds that private schools exist in Communist China despite stringent denials on the part of its officials and even Tooley's own research assistants. Private schools filled a vital lacuna in villages located in the relatively inaccessible, mountainous parts of the country. Parents worried that their daughters especially would have to walk to these distant schools, found in the private schools that functioned within the bare rooms of a small village home a welcome safe haven. The stories he tells seem repetitive till you realise that Tooley is hoping to drive home several points. Whether in Hyderabad, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, or China, Tooley finds private schools elusive at first. Education officials, even research assistants he engages, tell him they don't exist, that there cannot be private schools as all schools that exist for the poor are government run, for it is only the latter that can make the effort and the investment required to educate the children of the poor. Private schools
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are nothing but commercial money-spinning ventures, and only ignorant parents choose to send their children to such schools. Still, all the parents he interviews everywhere are adamant about why they prefer private schools for their children. It surprises Tooley that development experts, despite the obvious failure of state led efforts to ensure education for all, simply do not allude to the many private schools or else dismiss the valuable role such schools perform. There are, Tooley points out time and again, simply too many students out of school, and the millennium development goal of 'education for all by 2015' set by the United Nations, seems impossible to achieve. Yet private schools can help plug this gap. Why private schools are needed While he busts myths like only ignorant parents send their children to private schools, there are some other 'truths' about private schooling that Tooley doesn't highlight quite as rigorously. One is the insistence on English education, which private schools (and this is obviously true for India in large measure) offer, and which all aspiring parents think is essential for their children to get ahead in life. This preference persists despite populist decisions taken by certain state governments to arbitrarily impose the regional language as a compulsory subject in government or government recognised schools. as was most recently seen in Karnataka in 2004. The problem faced by private unrecognised schools is the battle to win recognition that they often lose. To win recognition, private schools sometimes have to pay a bribe. They need infrastructure and good teachers (which prove elusive in most cases) but inspectors have to be bribed simply so the schools can run. This is one reason why most private unrecognised schools function largely at primary and middle levels and are less evident at senior levels. Students from the lower classes face difficulties when they have to shift to other schools. Statistics show that the drop-out rate in middle schools has by and large remained the same over the last decade in India though gross enrolment rates may have risen. One reason could simply have to do with the presence or absence of private schools, and the transition difficulties. Tooley's experiences point to the need to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that could help establish more private schools. Educare, the organisation he founded, is a trust that is financing precisely such schools in areas he had first done his research in. James Tooley's findings highlight a vital, long neglected area of education. And this makes up for the gaps that emerge in his conclusions. A private initiative that would found and nurture scores of private schools across a broad region would develop the same kind of complexities and contradictions that drive any such behemoth-like
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system, including the state run school system, anywhere. One reason why private schools - the kind Tooley has detailed in his book - have worked well is precisely because of the informal nature of their functioning. There is another contradiction he does not address in the Indian context which plagues private schools here, and which was also established in the second report of the Pratichi Trust (2009) on public schools in certain West Bengal districts: that while teachers will work for less money in private schools, they do not stay in the job for long. They also seek to make up for the lower pay by taking coaching classes after school hours. It is this coaching system that the first Pratichi report (2001) had highlighted as a reason for the poor performance of government schools and the widespread teacher apathy in several schools in the districts of West Bengal. (1) Tooley's findings assume importance in the light of the recently passed legislation on the right to education for all in India. Many experts feel that the RTE emphasises numbers (of children in school) more than it does the quality of teaching. If private schools were given their due, in the manner Tooley argues, there would be fewer children out of school than at present. Pre-colonial education Tooley's book gets its title from an article written by Mahatma Gandhi on the state of 'native' education' before the advent of the British and their introduction of the modern 'centralised' system of education. Gandhi called the village school system a 'beautiful tree' that withered due to neglect by the British government which took credit for introducing modern subjects and a modern system of education. The British, as even Gandhi wrote, insisted that pre-colonial education systems were too few to have ever had an impact, but the lie to this appears in the numerous survey reports in the Presidency areas under British control that it commissioned in the early 19th century. The Munro report talks of the many small village schools in the Madras presidency that taught an entire range of subjects. But Munro - and Tooley cites this survey report enthusiastically - was not very forthcoming about whether such schools catered to all castes/communities and women as well. Evidently not, as other historical works bear out; besides, education within artisanal communities happened within the guild system as well. The private schools James Tooley cites in his book are those that flourish in the most adverse of circumstances, in the most unfriendly places and as their numbers indicate, despite all odds. In a time when it is obvious that the efforts of the State cannot prevail everywhere, or have failed to ensure delivery of essential services such as health and education, coexistence between private and public efforts could work wonders. But
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before coexistence, recognition that such agencies exist is important, and as Tooley has argued in this evocative, very persuasive book, sometimes that is the very first step. References: 1. The Pratichi Trust was set up by the Nobel winning economist, Amartya Sen. The first Pratichi report published in 2001 looked at the state of public school education across districts of West Bengal and Jharkhand. The second Pratichi report of 2009 was a follow-up detailed study conducted in the same districts as a comparative exercise. (Anu (Anuradha) Kumar is a writer and editor based in Gurgaon. She worked as a management consultant after her degree from XLRI Jamshedpur. Later she was in the editorial team of the EPW. Her novels include Letters for Paul (2006); Atisa and the Seven Wonders (Penguin 2008) and In the Country of Gold-digging Ants (Penguin 2009) InfoChange News & Features, January 2010

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Model colleges in educationally backward areas


The Centre has cleared a proposal to set up model colleges in 374 educationally backward districts in the country. The scheme has been cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). Initially, around 90 colleges will be set up in minority-concentrated districts In a bid to aid students in educationally backward districts, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, on January 21, approved the setting up of model colleges in 374 districts where the gross enrolment ratio (GER) for higher education is less than the national GER. The cost of setting up the colleges has been estimated at Rs 2,992 crore; the Centre will bear Rs 1,079 crore of this. The government envisions close to 1.87 lakh students enrolling in the 374 colleges. The scheme will cost the government around Rs 600 crore initially, with a target of 90 colleges, and assistance limited to one-third of the capital cost subject to a limit of Rs 2.67 crore per college in the selected district, will be provided through the University Grants Commission (UGC). For special category states, the Centre will share 50% of the capital cost but with an upper limit of Rs 4 crore for each college. State governments will provide land free of cost as well as the rest of the establishment costs. The recurring cost of running the college will be borne by the state governments concerned. With 374 districts in the country saddled with a GER below the national average of 12.4%, the human resource development ministry has been working on a proposal with the UGC to enhance access to degree courses in educationally backward districts of the country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during his Independence Day speech in 2007, said: ?We will ensure adequate numbers of colleges are set up across the country, especially in districts where enrolment levels are low.? The Eleventh Five-Year Plan document, as approved by the National Development Council, envisages, among other things, that 370 new degree colleges will be established in districts with a low gross enrolment ratio, based on careful selection. Source: The Hindu, January 22, 2010

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ANI, January 21, 2010

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When will the Right to Education Act be notified?


Four months after it was passed in Parliament, no date has been fixed for implementation of the Act making education free and compulsory for children aged 614 Seven years after the Constitution was amended in 2002 making free and compulsory education for children in the age-group 6-14 a fundamental right, and four months after the Right to Education Bill was passed in Parliament, both legislations are yet to be notified. Notification is a mandatory step that gives the exact date from when the law comes into force. The human resources development (HRD) ministry is said to be still working out the costs involved in implementing the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act; it has tentatively pegged the cost at Rs 1.71 lakh crore for five years. Since state governments need time to make the necessary budget allocations and put the infrastructure in place, early notification would have helped them begin the process. The RTE Act also envisages certain reforms in the system such as maintaining a teacher-student ratio of 1:30, setting up school management committees, and introducing continuous evaluations instead of the examination system. State governments could have begun working on these too had the Act been notified. Writing in the Financial Chronicle, Arun Nigvekar, former chairman of the University Grants Commission, says that despite the delay in notification, state governments should start putting the requirements of the RTE in place. ?Governments, state and central, must realise that these reforms cannot happen overnight by using a magic wand. It requires enormous effort and commitment at several levels, right from the panchayat to taluka to district to state level.? Nigvekar argues that the state education ministries are ?still not alarmed by the magnitude of the work required. They are just waiting for issuance of the notification, as if that alone would resolve every issue?. He gave the example of the fiasco over the education satellite project launched in 2004. ?The entire world hailed it as India's novel approach to enhancing access and quality in education. The HRD ministry, which was aware of the launch, could have planned its use. However, it started work on the use of satellites the same year. The
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net result: even after six years of its existence in space, the potential of education satellites is under-utilised and we have lost an excellent opportunity to transform our education system.? Source: Financial Chronicle, January 17, 2010

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Right to Education to cover all categories of disability


A month after being passed by Parliament, the Right to Education Act is set to be amended to include all categories of differently-abled children in its ambit. The move comes after intervention by the prime minister's office following protests from disabled rights groups The human resource development (HRD) ministry has admitted that a section of the Right to Education (RTE) Act pertaining to ?disadvantaged sections? will have to be changed as it does not cover all disabled children. According to the proposed amendment, the Act will now include children covered under the National Trust Act and any other law that deals with those suffering from mental as well as physical disorders. This was reportedly conveyed by the HRD ministry to the prime minister's office (PMO) recently. While the ministry was earlier planning to incorporate enabling provisions in the rules to be framed for the Act, it was later felt that rules alone would not suffice to meet the concerns of the disabled. After being passed by Parliament in early August, the landmark legislation is now awaiting presidential consent. Indications are that the amendment will be moved later to ensure that all disabilities are covered under the Bill's definition of ?disability?. Barely a week after the Act was passed, the prime minister's office wrote to the HRD ministry asking it to ensure that the concerns of the disabled were addressed. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal assured both Parliament and the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) that all categories of disabled children would receive benefits under the RTE Act. The RTE Act proposes free and compulsory education to all children aged between 6 and 14 years, making it binding on all public and private schools to reserve 25% of their seats for children from ?disadvantaged sections?. Section 3 states that ?disadvantaged sections? cover children with disabilities as specified under the Persons With Disabilities Act -- an Act that is not very comprehensive as it leaves out several disabilities like cerebral palsy, autism and other mental disorders. The original Bill was at the centre of a row even before it was tabled in the Lok Sabha, with activists alleging that it deliberately excluded disabled children from its ambit. They claimed the Bill ignored the rights of disabled children by not providing for disabled-friendly facilities, not including ?disability? within the definition of ?disadvantaged sections?, and not including the mentally challenged within the

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definition of ?disabled?. Activists say that where the Bill does define ?disability?, it takes the meaning as given in the Disability Act 1995, which covers people with physical disabilities only. Activists point out that India was one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in October 2007, which says: ?State parties shall ensure that persons with disability are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education or from secondary education on the basis of disability.? Source: The Indian Express, September 21 and August 12, 2009 http://www.channelnewsasia.com, September 21, 2009 Business Standard, August 4, 2009 IANS, August 3, 2009

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Numbers, at the cost of quality?


By Anu Kumar After the passage of the Right to Education Bill, elementary school education is now compulsory, and free. But several questions remain, including how children outside the 6-14 age-group will be covered, and how the neighbourhood schooling system will be implemented The man who irons clothes in our building sometimes sends his son across to collect and deliver. The boy has only recently come from the village and is yet to begin school. The 'presswallah' isn't sure which school will take his son, or if he can afford it. When I tell him about the new Bill making education free and compulsory for the 6-14 agegroup, he looks blank. It won't work, he says finally. And when I try and explain things to him, he says it still won't work. In India, it seems, the laws are made for other people. Earlier this year, in August, the Right to Education Bill was finally passed, after a long campaign within Parliament and also outside. It brought to fruition a dream spelled out in the Constitution almost 60 years ago. The Bill also became essential after Parliament passed the 86th Amendment Act in 2001 (the first moves were made in 1998) making education a fundamental right. The amendment was in large part because of the direction given by the Supreme Court in the J P Unnikrishnan vs State of Andhra Pradesh case, as early as in 1993, as well as in the Mohini Jain case which said that the right to education directly flows from the right to life. Not only is elementary school education now free, it is compulsory. That is, children of the poor, such as Santosh, will by law attend government schools or aided schools. Private schools too will have to reserve 25% of their seats for the economically weaker sections. To end any kind of discrimination whatsoever, the Bill has banned schools from holding admission tests or seeking ?donations? from guardians. Also, a school cannot deny a student admission because he doesn't have a birth and/or transfer certificate. The Bill commits the government to implementing a ?neighbourhood schooling system? in three years, ie, it is obliged to provide schooling within the block in which the student lives, and these will be managed by school management committees made up of school representatives, parents of students, and local political leaders. The idea is loosely modelled on the British comprehensive school system that caters to nearly 90% of secondary school students there. Also, no child is to be subjected to physical
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punishment or mental harassment. It speaks of a common board that will do away with the differential educational standards in the country; it bans the practice of hiring parateachers -- part-time teachers with either no training or less training than that required for full-time teachers in schools. The provisions are radical in their scope, and idealistic. Its ambitions however remain subject to its ability to implement. And, of course, having the necessary finances, of which the government has been completely vague. Allocations to education have seen a commensurate decline in finance over the years. Education is deemed to be every government's pet scheme, and this government would like to take credit for a step that will be permanently enshrined. But how much will things actually change? Will Santosh go to a school of his choice, without any fear? More importantly, will he learn? An answer means looking at some of the vital issues presented by the Bill. Does it cover every child? Provisions of the Bill ignore earlier constitutional provisions, as also the Unnikrishnan judgment of 1993 that emphasised the right of every child to receive education. India is also a signatory to the UN-mandated Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) that spells out basic rights children are entitled to, including the right to life, protection from abuse and exploitation. It also delineates the states' responsibilities towards children, including the urgent matter of providing them schooling. But the education Bill limits its ambit to children in the age-group 6?14, and ignores those under six. Education up to the 8th standard is not enough to equip a child with the basic skills required for gainful employment; nor does it equip individuals to function with a basic degree of self-reliance and empowerment. And related to the right to education, rights continue to be denied to children in the 0-6 age-group. For example, while there has been a marginal increase in the female-male sex ratio in the 2001 census, there has been a disturbing decline in the female-male sex ratio in the under-6 age-group. The 1991 census shows the female-male sex ratio in the 0-6 agegroup as 945 girls per 1,000 boys. But a decade later, for the same age-group the ratio was 927 girls to 1,000 boys. And it is usually the girl-child who, even if she survives an infancy marred by poor health, malnourishment and inadequate access to food, will probably be forced to work within the household and outside, and thus in all probability be denied a proper education.

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To safeguard the rights of the under-6 age-group, the Supreme Court had passed orders on the universalisation of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme -- every child under 6, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers, are entitled to services that include supplementary nutrition, growth monitoring and promotion, nutrition and health education, immunisation, health services, as well as referral services, and pre-school education. In interim orders passed in 2001 and again in 2004, the apex court directed the government to increase the number of anganwadi centres (for the ICDS) from 6 lakh to 14 lakh and to ensure that all scheduled caste/scheduled tribe hamlets and slums in urban areas be provided with these centres. In December 2008, the court issued its most far-reaching directive when a timeframe was given to state governments to create these proposed anganwadis. More radically, the court mandated that all rural habitations, tribal hamlets and slums with at least 40 children under 6 are entitled to an ?anganwadi on demand?. This is an explicit recognition of the ICDS as a right for all children. Who pays for it all? The Bill remains silent on increasing the outlay for government schooling. Instead, it shifts the responsibility of 'poor students' to private schools (the 25% reservation clause), which has in the past raised objections to such a proposal. Developed economies like the US, UK and France allocate 6-7% of their national budgets to public education and health. India however allocates just 3% for education, and around 1% for health. To really make a difference to children's lives, the country needs to spend at least 10% of GDP on school education and health. Currently, the spending on schooling is 1.28% (the total government outlay is 3.3%) of GDP. In fact, successive governments have tried to bring down allocations on education, as with every other social sector. The Tapas Majumdar Committee set up in 1999 estimated that an additional investment of Rs 137,600 crore would need to be made over a 10-year period to bring all out-of-school children into the school system (not parallel streams) and enable them to complete the elementary stage (Class 8). This meant an average investment of Rs 14,000 crore a year, which, in 1999, amounted to 0.78% of GDP, ie, 78 paise out of every Rs 100 India earned. However, the Financial Memorandum to the Constitution (93rd; later it became the 86th) Amendment Bill, 2001 then being debated in Parliament, stated that a sum of Rs 98,000 crore would be required over a 10-year period to implement the right to education for children in the age-group 6-14 years. This worked out to Rs 9,800 crore a year on an average (0.44% of GDP in 2002-03), 30% less than that estimated by the Tapas Majumdar Committee. In reality, however, the sum required is much more.

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Indeed, proper implementation of the Bill will need a huge infusion of funds. Most schools in rural areas suffer from poor or absent infrastructure. The government will have to spend a large amount of money to bring them up to scratch and to ensure that there are enough trained teachers to impart education at the elementary level. As educationists have argued, the government will have to cough up Rs 55,000 crore annually to execute this law. With state governments always complaining about lack of funds and about the Centre not coming forward to assist them, the law is certain to face a serious funds crunch. The government for its part has made some effort to address the issue of providing adequate funds. The Bill has a provision whereby it can request the President to direct the Finance Commission to allocate funds to the states for implementing the provisions of the Bill. But besides sounding arbitrary, it remains to be seen if this will be enough. Where will the child learn? The Bill is vague on the definition of ?neighbourhood?. It appears that it has misrepresented the universal notion of a neighbourhood school, as advanced by the Kothari Commission and as practised in countries such as the USA, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. In these countries, each school is assigned a predetermined neighbourhood and all children residing in the neighbourhood are required to study in the neighbourhood school. However, in this particular Bill, ?neighbourhood? is defined in terms of the child; this means that poorer children will be directed to attend sub-standard schools while those of the middle class or the elite will have access to central schools or private schools. The HRD minister is on record as saying that state governments will frame rules with regard to neighbourhood schools in their domain. But how will state governments bring in the notion of a neighbourhood school when it does not exist in the Bill itself? The Bill's schedule has norms and standards for all schools to follow, but will these improve the status of government schools? As seen from the enrolment figures, almost two-thirds of existing government primary schools will continue as ?sub-standard? schools (two-room and two-teacher, three-room and three-teacher). One of the classrooms will, in all likelihood, be turned into a storeroom for midday meals since a separate provision has been made only for the kitchen. The Bill also says that government school teachers can be deployed for census, elections and disaster relief duties. When this happens, the universal malaise of a teacher teaching more than one class in one classroom will see a commensurate decline in quality of teaching. While the Bill is against deploying the teacher for any ?non-educational purposes?, it has

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cleverly left adequate scope for deploying him for 'non-teaching tasks' such as surveying children and arranging for inoculations. It is also possible that, as some educationists argue, the government will end up subsidising private schools, as it is going to pay for the economically weaker students who make up the 25% quota demarcated for the latter. And what will he learn? This law promises centralisation of syllabi and standardisation of education in three years -- a huge challenge before the government. Once enacted, the law will centralise almost every aspect of elementary education, ie, syllabi, methods of admission of students, etc. Yet, it is silent on the process of centralisation of education. One way forward is the National Curricula Framework (NCF) put in place in 2005-06. In 2004, the Ministry of Human Resource Development enabled the NCERT to build the National Curriculum Framework with the help of the Central Advisory Board of Education. The NCF has tremendous potential to ensure long-term reforms in the entire system of school education. As many as 21 national focus groups were set up to cover all major points and areas relevant for curricular redesigning; each focus group included not only academicians and educationists from various universities and institutes of teacher education but also schoolteachers from across the country, especially rural teachers whose voices had hitherto been largely ignored. The draft NCF also received wide attention and participation from some states. Approval of NCF 2005 was followed by the preparation of new syllabi and textbooks. The NCF process has been fruitful in bringing about a major shift in perspective. It permits the child's view to become the centre of teaching. It is implemented in all CBSE schools, yet very many school boards in different states continue to have their own syllabi. The Right to Education Bill will now have to be implemented in the states. Centre-state relations in education, as in other areas, are complex and have not been properly defined or even examined in the current context. For instance, the Kothari Commission back in the 1960s recommended a pattern of 5+3+4 years of schooling, but more than 10 states continue with the practice of four years of primary education. Similarly, there are multiple boards of education. Moreover, year after year, figures show that even though outlay has increased, most states use only a fraction of what is allotted. Who will teach? While the Bill stipulates that every school should have a student-teacher ratio of 40:1, experts say it does not go into how this is to be achieved. Most schools in West
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Bengal, for example, have a student-teacher ratio of 90:1; there are some singleteacher schools as well. The Bill does not lay down any guidelines on how to meet the severe shortage of schoolteachers. The scenario of teacher education presents by far the bleakest picture -- there is rampant commercialisation on the one hand and a lifeless, uninspiring B Ed curriculum on the other. Quality teacher education programmes such as Delhi University's B El Ed, which focus on the specific needs of elementary education, are rare. Drastic reforms are needed in the B Ed course and other teacher training programmes for the primary and pre-primary classes. Numbers at the cost of quality In the end, the fear remains that the government will be more obsessed by numbers such as literacy and enrolment rates, and that the quality of education will not really matter. A report released by the Bal Hakk Abhiyan on 'The State of Primary Education in Maharashtra', in 2001, holds truths that are relevant even today. According to the 2001 census, Maharashtra saw the maximum progress in literacy in the last decade. But girls continue to remain out of school. Moreover, the government claimed to have launched several schemes to reach out-of-school children. The Mahatma Phule Guarantee Scheme was supposed to provide education centres where there are no schools, ie in tribal areas. But there is no data to indicate whether the scheme has made any difference. The schemes also failed to reach landless dalit families who still seasonally migrate from impoverished parts of Marathwada to sugarcane-growing areas of western Maharashtra. The children of these families cannot hope to attend school unless their special circumstances are recognised. But this wasn't done. The new Bill promises to correct lacunae such as these. In Marathwada, thus, there are schools and teachers, but no children. In tribal areas of Maharashtra, on the other hand, there are insufficient primary schools. If there are schools, there are no teachers. The story is replicated in very many other states too. The need of the hour, then, is to gear up to bridge the many gaps, to make sure that quality education is available for all. An ideal Bill would work within the framework of a public-funded common school system based on neighbourhood schools from the preprimary stage to Class XII, with everything possible looked into -- teachers, syllabi, ideal norms, etc. Will Santosh then be able to go to a school of his choice, and learn without fear, with the full joy of a child, as indeed all education should be? The Bill makes sure it has the answers, or at least some. But it remains to be seen how and when these questions will be answered.

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Infochange News & Features, September 2009

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SSA making steady progress in Himachal


The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), launched in 2001 in Himachal Pradesh, is making steady progress with the strengthening and expansion of basic infrastructure in elementary schools http://dailypioneer.com/199199/, September 2009

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Indian Parliament passes landmark Right to Education Bill


It has taken six-and-half years, two governments, and half-a-dozen drafts to put in place enabling legislation making the right to education a fundamental right in India The Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, has adopted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2009, approving it by voice vote on Tuesday, August 4, 2009. The upper house, the Rajya Sabha, passed the Bill on July 20. Once the President gives the Bill her assent, education will become a fundamental right for every Indian child. Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal called the move ?a national enterprise that will help shape India's future,? explaining that ?this Bill is about the child's right to have free education and the State's obligation to provide compulsory education. This is a historic opportunity as there was never such a law in the last 62 years since Independence. We, as a nation, cannot afford our children not going to school?. Answering a range of questions on the form and content of the Bill, Sibal said that its essential features included free education, compulsory education, quality education (with schools requiring to have facilities like a playground, library, etc), quality teachers (minimum qualification for teachers is compulsory; under-qualified teachers will be given five years to upgrade themselves), social responsibility (private schools will have to reserve one-fourth of their seats for disadvantaged children), de-bureaucratisation of the school system, and participation of civil society in school management committees (where half the members will be women). As the purpose of the legislation is to set a certain benchmark for school education, the Bill details punitive action for running unrecognised schools, and also provides for derecognition of institutions that do not meet certain standards. These standards, in terms of teacher qualifications and duties, and pupil-teacher ratio, have been specified. It comes with a diktat that prohibits teachers from taking private tuitions and schools from deploying them for non-educational purposes other than the decennial population census, disaster relief, and election duty. Stressing the need for a boost to children's education, Sibal said that out of every 100 children attending elementary school only 12 reached the graduation level; in Europe it was 50-70 (students reaching college from the elementary level); the global average is 27. The Centre wanted to increase India's average to 15 by 2012 and to 30-35 by 2020, he said.
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The curriculum will be less rigorous and will ensure all-round development of children. ?A child must not be subjected to board examinations in Class V or Class VIII. The element of fear must be removed from the child's mind. At present the child has no choice but to take exams and the government was determined to end it,? the minister added. Responding to questions raised in Parliament, Sibal clarified that no punitive measures were planned for parents who failed to send their children to school. He also clarified that it was for the states and local authorities to decide on the broader contours of neighbourhood schools (with no interference from the Centre), within three years. The Bill seeks to do away with the practice of schools taking capitation fees before admissions, and subjecting the child or parents to a screening procedure. If a school disregards this it could be fined up to 10 times the capitation amount. If tests or interviews are conducted, a school can be fined Rs 25,000 for the first violation, and Rs 50,000 for every subsequent contravention. Schools cannot deny admission to a child because of lack of age proof, and no child can be detained or expelled until the completion of elementary education. Physical punishment and mental harassment will attract disciplinary action under the service rules. It will be up to the states to implement the policy of reservation in admissions. While 25% of seats in every private school will be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups, including differently-abled children at the entry level, as far as minority institutions are concerned, up to 50% of these seats can be offered to students from their own community. On infrastructure, the minister said there was provision for establishing a recognition authority in every state under which all schools would have to fulfil the minimum requirement for infrastructure within three years. Otherwise they will lose recognition. Similarly, appointment of teachers had to be approved by the academic committee, Sibal pointed out. On the medium of instruction, Sibal said there was provision to provide elementary education, as far as possible, in the child's mothertongue. The law would ensure that the child got free, compulsory and quality education by qualified teachers. It had not been brought in to interfere with the state government's attempts to provide elementary education. The minister emphasised the disability clause, saying that the differently-abled would be considered part of the broad ?disadvantaged category (that includes scheduled
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castes [SCs], scheduled tribes [STs], socially and educationally backward)? integrating schooling for the disabled in normal schools?. He added that children suffering from autism too would soon be able to join normal schools. A spate of protests over the past week by disabled rights groups across the country were followed by a meeting with Sibal on Monday. The prime minister also met them the day the Bill was passed. ?The prime minister assured us that our concerns would be addressed,? says Javed Abidi, head of the disability rights group that has been spearheading the protest along with the Spastics Society of India. Disabled rights activists argue that the Bill effectively extends benefits only to those with physical disabilities -- not children with cerebral palsy or autism. The definition of disadvantaged children -- for whom each private school is required to reserve 25% of their seats -- does not include the differently-abled. Also, they say, the Bill does not mention special schools with a barrier-free environment for differently-abled children. The government still has to finalise funding norms for implementation of the proposed law; this remains a major concern for educationists in the country. ?The right to education will effectively become implementable only when the funding is clear and is released. Till then, it will remain a law only on paper,? said one senior HRD ministry official. The ministry has asked the finance commission to finalise funding norms for the proposed law. Critics of the Bill say it is unclear how the government plans to pay for it. They also say it does not cover children below the age of six and therefore fails to recognise the importance of a child's early years of development. Achieving universal education is one of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals to be met by the year 2015. Currently, around 70 million children in India receive no schooling; more than a third of the country's population is illiterate. At present, India spends a little over 3% of its GDP on education. Source:The Hindu, August 5, 2009 The Indian Express, August 5, 2009 The Telegraph, August 4, 2009 Press Trust of India, August 4, 2009 http://news.bbc.co.uk, August 2009

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Educationists express concern over Right to Education Bill


The Right to Education Bill, passed this week by the Rajya Sabha, stops short of providing a common schooling system and discriminates between students in government schools and private unaided schools, say educationists Educationists and some parliamentarians warn that the Right to Education Bill, in its present form, is riddled with loopholes that will only legally sanctify existing inequalities in India's schools. Biologist Pushpa M Bhargava, who was vice-chairman of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC), has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting him not to table the current Bill in the Lok Sabha, while Anil Sadagopal, member of the Central Advisory Board on Education sub-panel that prepared the first draft of the Bill, has petitioned Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar requesting her to return the Bill for further discussion. The Right to Education Bill aims to make schooling for children between six and 14 years a fundamental right. However, although titled the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, it does not alleviate the financial burden on poor parents who send their children to private schools, say educationists. Bhargava, in his letter to the prime minister, argues that the Bill will effectively lead to the government subsidising private schools instead of ensuring school education for all. Under the Bill, each private school will have to reserve 25% of its seats for children from economically weaker sections (EWS). Although the government will compensate these schools, it will be required to compensate only tuition fees. ?On an average, the central and state governments spend between Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500 per child a year in its schools. Most private schools charge their students much more. Students in the EWS quota will have to shell out the balance amount,? says Sadagopal. Many private schools also charge students more for extra-curricular activities. These charges are not covered by the Bill. ?In effect, the EWS quota students will have to battle huge peer pressure in studying,? Sadagopal adds. He also criticises the government for not detailing in the Bill how it plans to allocate resources for the Bill's implementation. The Right to Education Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 15 last year, before the Lok Sabha elections to prevent it from lapsing. It was listed for debate
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and passage on Monday. But at no point during the debate did the total number of MPs present cross 60. However, a five-and-a-half-hour-long debate in the Rajya Sabha threw up a slew of questions on the funding formula and Centre-state fund-sharing arrangement for implementation of this ambitious piece of legislation. And, more importantly, the need for a common schooling system that does not discriminate between students in government schools and private unaided schools. ?Once Parliament passes it, education will become a fundamental right of every child. There is no way in the world that we will not have finances,? Union Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal said in the upper house. Strongly advocating the passage of the Bill, Sibal added that though it was a difficult task, the government could not have waited any longer. ?We have to do it. We have wasted a whole lot of time,? the minister said. The Right to Education Bill seeks to achieve 10 broad objectives including free and compulsory education, obligation on the part of the state to provide education, nature of curriculum consistent with the Constitution, quality, focus on social responsibility and teachers' obligations, and de-bureaucratisation of admissions. Also, provision for neighbourhood schools to be set up by states within three years. ?We are sitting on a great opportunity. If we lose it, I do not know what will happen to our country,? Sibal said in Parliament. A lot of work remains to be done on the Bill as the rules for making it functional have not yet been framed; each state will have to do so separately. However, once the Lok Sabha passes it, it will become law. Sibal said that although the Bill was still to become law, action would be taken against whoever violated it. Source: The Telegraph, July 23, 2009 The Indian Express, July 23 and 21, 2009 Business Standard, July 13, 2009 The Economic Times, July 12, 2009

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76% of schools use low-quality grain for midday meal in UP: CAG report
According to a recently released annual report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, around 76% of schools in Uttar Pradesh use low-quality foodgrain for midday meals. The report also highlights several irregularities in the scheme's implementation ?Inspection of foodgrain used revealed that broken grains in excess of permissible limits, foreign matter and damaged grains were used in 243 schools of the 320 inspected,? says the annual report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India that contains audit observations of the midday meal scheme for 2006-2007. ?Improvement in the nutritional status of the children was not ensured by providing micro-nutrient supplements and de-worming medicines. No periodical health check-up of the children was conducted either,? it adds. Stating that the Uttar Pradesh government did not conduct a baseline survey during 2004-05 to determine the enrolment of children, as directed by the Centre, the report says: ?The data relating to attendance and retention of children was not also collected.? Further, the report indicates misuse of funds and financial irregularities. It reports that foodgrain worth Rs 121.98 crore remained with the transporting agencies (2002-2007) and fair price shops (2005-2007), indicating poor transportation of grain. ?Deficient scrutiny of transportation claims of the transporting agencies for 2002-2007 by the finance controller and the basic shiksha parishad resulted in the excess reimbursement of Rs 81.88 crore by December 2007 to the agencies.? ?Fair price shopkeepers retained 3.58 crore empty gunny bags during 2002-07, resulting in an undue benefit of Rs 43.86 crore to them,? the report elaborates. Apart from these irregularities, the report also focuses on the reach of the scheme. Around 1.63 crore children in drought-affected areas did not receive the benefit of the scheme during the summer vacation of 2005 and 2007, violating the directives of the Supreme Court. Of the 96,457 schools in the state, 36,489 did not have kitchen sheds. Of the 320 schools inspected, around 61 did not have adequate kitchen devices and potable water. Earlier, in May 2009, the Uttar Pradesh government found that many schools were not implementing the scheme and initiated action against the principals and teachers of

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around 105 government-run schools in Hamirpur district. ?In an ongoing surprise inspection we found that the schools were not providing regular lunch to their students under the midday meal scheme,? the official in charge of primary education in the district, Mahendra Kumar, said. Kumar has written to the district magistrate for action to be initiated against the school staff. There are 790 primary schools and 364 upper primary schools in Hamirpur, which is around 300 km from Lucknow. About 150,000 schools are covered by the midday meal scheme in Uttar Pradesh. Under the scheme, lunch is provided to students till Class 8. Over 18.6 million students are enrolled under the scheme. According to the rules, every child must be given a meal each day for at least 200 days a year. The midday meal scheme, also known as the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, was launched by the central government in August 15, 1995, with the aim of universalising primary education by improving enrolment, attendance and retention, and raising nutritional levels among children. The programme also seeks to promote hygienic and sanitary practices, break caste prejudices through the sharing of meals, and foster gender equality among schoolchildren. Source: The Indian Express, June 2, 2009 The Indian Express, May 30, 2009 PTI, May 29, 2009 The Telegraph, May 25, 2009 IANS, May 20, 2009

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Central anti-ragging agency soon


A central helpline to help victims of ragging at educational institutions will be set up in a week the government tells the Supreme Court after placing a probe report that cites alcoholism on campus as one of the main reasons behind the menace The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has begun work on developing a model for a proposed 'crisis helpline' to enable victims of ragging across the country to seek immediate help. The government hopes to put the mechanism in place in around a week. The concept of a central agency with a helpline, which will be web-based, is the brainchild of Rajender Kachroo, whose 19-year-old son Aman died after being assaulted by seniors last month at a government medical college in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Aman's father has also suggested the creation of an anti-ragging database that will feature the names of students, and list ragging complaints, to ensure effective monitoring and prevention of the practice. Once the database/helpline comes into operation, state governments are also expected to amend their anti-ragging statutes to include provisions that place penal consequences on institutional heads who do not take timely steps to prevent ragging and punish those who resort to it. Amicus curiae and Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam said: ?The HRD ministry has already commenced work on developing a model for the crisis-centre helpline and the anti-ragging database. The ministry has sought the assistance of Educational Consultants India Ltd as a consultant in this project.? Subramaniam revealed this to a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and A K Ganguly hearing petitions relating to recent cases of ragging at Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College, Himachal Pradesh, and College of Agricultural Engineering, Bapatla, Andhra Pradesh. The two cases were referred to the R K Raghavan Committee along with other recent incidents of ragging -- one in Coimbatore and the other in Goa. In his status report, Subramaniam referred to the Raghavan Committee's findings submitted to the court, blaming alcoholism on campus, failure of colleges to set up antiragging squads and implement recommendations to prevent ragging.
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He said the inquiry committee had found that ?wardens and assistant wardens in the college took up their assignments reluctantly and did not discharge their duties as was required of them?. The report also points out that the wardens were found to be living outside the hostel premises, defeating the purpose of creating such a position. It further blames the Medical Council of India (MCI) for not taking immediate action to put down the menace. The court has asked the Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh governments to file their response to the report later this week. Source: The Hindu, April 21, 2009 PTI, April 20, 2009

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Ragging as human rights abuse?


?Ragging? is not a rite of passage or a bit of fun and games. It is a serious crime and should be regarded and dealt with as such by students, teachers, parents and law enforcement agencies, says Kalpana Kannabiran The murder of 19-year-old medical student Aman Kachroo is deeply saddening. Aman Kachroo died after being severely beaten up by fellow students in a "ragging" incident at the Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College in Tanda, Himachal Pradesh on March 8, 2009. Four senior students have been arrested in the case which has caused public outrage. Ragging has been rampant in the country, especially in colleges of professional education for at least four decades now. As a child, I remember my teenaged uncle discontinuing his studies in engineering in Bhopal in the mid-1970s unable to bear the humiliation of ragging. We have no count of the number of young students, mostly young men, who have lost their lives, taken their lives or made a choice between a professional education and staying alive and sane. It is certainly not a recent phenomenon. While we have a law in place now, it is hardly surprising that the law only comes into operation when there is a serious violation ? like this one -- where the gravity of the offence puts it within the purview of criminal law. The term ?ragging? itself is problematic because it masks the fact that the acts it refers to are harassment and battery aimed at diminishing the dignity of those who enter the institution at a time when they are powerless and vulnerable. Fresh out of school, several moving out of the secure confines of home for the first time, groping to find their feet in the world after gaining entry into institutions that will transport them to their dreams, these youngsters are rudely awakened to the fact that violation of dignity and person is a defining trait of the world of their dreams. The ?sporting? way of dealing with it, we are told, is to grin and bear it. There are several who do. But does that mean they do not experience humiliation? How does that experience condition their behaviour and personality in their lives ahead? It is impossible that targeted violence will not leave scars. How many have actually been able to tell their stories? When they have, how many of us have heard them carefully and acted diligently ? as parents, teachers and peers? There are others, like Aman Kachroo, who refuse to submit themselves to such humiliation. And they, the human rights defenders in institutions of higher learning, face the hostility of a negligent, callous and thereby complicit administration on the one
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side, an indifferent faculty on the other, and a murderous mob closing in on them. This mob, of course, needs no reason to be murderous. It is not violence that needs any justification or rationalisation. While all freshers are vulnerable, those who come from vulnerable social backgrounds are doubly targeted. In Aman's case, he came in through a quota, and yet he dared to stand up and speak. A little understood dimension of campus violence is that it reproduces the exclusions and silencing outside. And because campuses are closed spaces, insulated from the world outside, the normal protections that may be claimed and that might operate outside, are rejected in favour of non transparent conciliatory processes within that are simply incapable of tackling the gravity of these situations. The use of the term ?ragging? to describe these attacks that range from verbal to physical abuse and murder, aggravates the problem by detracting attention from its seriousness ? teachers, parents, friends, in general all those in touch with victims, generally share the view that this is a rite of passage that will pass. The question we need to ask ourselves, however, is, even if it is a rite of passage, even if we are certain it will pass, why must we tolerate or condone intentional humiliation and battery? This is scarcely the time for us to distance ourselves from the problem by saying it does not happen in our institutions. We need now to take responsibility for a systemic failure that has had tragic consequences, for which we are, as teachers especially, collectively responsible. I have personally heard the head of an institution tell freshers that while ragging is prohibited, before they lodge a formal complaint they must also remember that it is the seniors who will eventually guide them through their academic work. It is not true either that it is only the ?lumpen? elements among students who indulge in this behaviour. The brightest, most high performing students figure as kingpins in the lynch mob, providing intellectual grist to the ?ragging? mill. There are those who participate actively and others who buy their peace and inclusion by being passive participant-spectators in these orgies. The participation in violence dehumanises both equally. Can it be argued that having participated in an orgy of this kind, these students will be able to just move on and get their star grades, make it in life, be good teachers, friends and parents, and make peace with themselves? It is not my intention here to essentialise negative character traits or behavioural patterns as never-changing and evil. Rather, what I wish to suggest is that participation in willful violence against a group perceived as powerless has a far-reaching impact on the perpetrators. We have not even begun to grapple with this because we have defined murderous violence down to flippant ?teasing? that does not penetrate the surface of consciousness. Perhaps we need to think of how this bearing of witness as violators will influence their response to similar violence against those in their care a generation later.
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If it is possible for students in an academic environment to use the fact of belonging to the institution to inflict harm and suffering on an unimaginable scale on younger colleagues, it is time for us to reflect critically on the kind of education we impart and the students we are turning out. What does it tell us about the character of the institutions we have built? Most urgent of all, it is time for students who are troubled by this violence to come together and form a national coalition against campus violence, making it known and clear to all parties on campuses across the country that there will henceforth be zero tolerance for any infringement of the right to dignity and education in an environment of freedom. It is only this exercise of associational freedom that will call into account all parties responsible for providing and safeguarding fundamental rights of students in vulnerable situations in educational institutions. (Kalpana Kannabiran is a professor at the NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad) InfoChange News & Features, March 2009

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Village girls in Rajasthan get a leg-up


By Deepti Priya Mehrotra Residential balika shikshan shivirs (girls' education camps), set up by the Society to Uplift Rural Economy in Rajasthan's Barmer district, encourage girls to get away from everyday chores in the home and pursue their education

In Rajasthan's Barmer district, girls' education is a low priority for most local families. Although they are integral to the family economy -- they help manage households, take care of younger siblings, and work in agriculture and animal husbandry -- girls have traditionally never been allowed to study. In the last decade, however, interventions initiated by the Society to Uplift Rural Economy (SURE) have brought about changes. ?I am studying and will give the Class X exam this year,? says 17-year-old Keku from Bhalgaon village. Keku lives on the SURE rural campus, in Binjrad, for seven months, studying for the exam. She is one of 25 girls attending the residential balika shikshan shivir (girls' education camp); three will give the Class X exam, the others will sit for the Class VIII exam. In Bhalgaon village, 60 km away, Keku's mother Sita Devi, 50, says: ?I want her to study as much as she can. Her father will not stop her. Her elder sisters studied only up to Class V. Now they are married.? Keku, a keen student, studied up to Class VIII in the village school but, since there was no high school in or near Bhalgaon, was forced to drop out. When the family heard about the balika shikshan shivir, they decided to explore the option. They are happy with Keku's progress. Sita Devi says: ?My daughter studies very hard. If we can find a way, we would like her to study further.? Keku's parents are unusually progressive. For many girls it is still a struggle to convince parents to let them study at all. Few villages in this remote desert district, with its far-flung settlements, have access to schooling beyond the primary, or at the most middle stage. SURE's residential camps fulfil a real need. The organisation has been holding balika shikshan shivirs since 2000, mostly to coach girls up to Class V. Field worker Daulat
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Sharma recalls: ?SURE went from home to home talking to parents. Gradually they agreed.? In most cases the girls were extremely keen to study -- that was a major motivating force for their parents! But, since girls perform essential everyday tasks at home, sparing them for several months entails a palpable sacrifice. Mothers have to work much harder, yet they are the foremost supporters of their children's education. As Sita Devi says: ?My daughter should have a better life than mine!? Moreover, education up to Class VIII/X qualifies girls for employment in the village, as anganwadi workers (frontline workers in the Integrated Child Development Scheme), nurses, or mates in state employment programmes. Lata Kacchwaha, 54, SURE's vice-president, says: ?When the girls stay with us for a balika shikshan shivir, we set them a rigorous study schedule. They literally work from early morning to late night, with only brief breaks for meals and half a day off in the week for sports. We have no option because they have to learn several years' course work within a few months!? SURE appoints and trains teachers so that they are able to meet the challenge of teaching at an accelerated pace. At the schools, the girls study, sing, and enjoy the time away from daily chores. Through these residential camps, over 1,000 girls have been enabled to study up to various levels. In several villages, SURE has initiated kishori manchs (adolescent girls' groups). At the kishori manch, girls learn about health and hygiene, and discuss issues close to their hearts. For instance, Shanta, 17, who has studied up to Class VIII, wants to know whether she can join the police. Others want to become nurses or teachers. However, their parents are not keen to send them away for further studies. Instead, many are being prepared for marriage. Says Uma Kunwar, field organiser: ?We are helping make a space for these girls where they can learn more about themselves. But a lot more still has to change.? Contact: Society to Uplift Rural Economy (SURE) PO Box 29 Gurudwara Road Barmer Rajasthan Tel:02982-230865/230801 Email:surebmr@rediffmail.com (Deepti Priya Mehrotra is a Delhi-based writer)

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InfoChange News & Features, March 2009

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MP's education entrepreneurs


By Deepti Priya Mehrotra In rural Madhya Pradesh, experiments are afoot to draw girls into the ambit of education. These are spearheaded by gutsy determined local women who have a burning desire to open up new avenues and opportunities for young women In rural Madhya Pradesh, experiments are afoot to draw girls into the ambit of education. Shabana Bano Rizvi, 29, block panchayat member, Singodi block, Chhindwara district, campaigns intensively to motivate dropouts to sit for the Class X exam. She says: ?Many girls are forced to drop out after middle school due to poverty, absence of a school close by, pressures of housework, and social taboos against mobility of adolescent girls. I myself was forced to leave school in the middle of Class X, when I was married off by my father, against my will. My mother always supported me. Surprisingly, my marital family is supportive, though poor. We have to struggle to work and bring up our daughter. Still, I stood for elections because I wanted to do something for women. I am the first person in my family to stand for election. My fatherin-law is my biggest supporter. ?When I won the (reserved) seat, I seized the opportunity to promote girls' education. I went from home to home, persuading parents to let their girls study.? Rizvi even raised funds for the fees, in the case of very poor families. Finally, 16 girls appeared for their Class X exams and all have cleared them. Some want to study further (Rizvi is trying to arrange loans to pay for those who cannot afford to do so), and some are keen to begin self-employment ventures, so she is setting up linkages for support schemes for entrepreneurs. Rizvi was one of the 16 students who cleared the Class X exam in 2008 -- 15 years after she left school! Now she is preparing for Class XII. Bubbling with enthusiasm, she says: ?My daughter is three years old. She will study as much as she wants to!? Earlier, her husband would accompany her everywhere as she was nervous about travelling alone. ?Now I can go by myself. I am confident,? she says. Rizvi values her position of power because she is able to make a difference to the lives of girls and women, in an extremely conservative society. Meena Mehra, 43, ward panch of Raisalpur gram panchayat, Hoshangabad district, is unlettered. It's this fact that's driven her to take up the issue of schooling as a mission. She says: ?In our panchayat there is no high school. Children who study up to Class V
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have nowhere to go after that. Of around 500 students passing Class VIII, about 350 do not study further. Girls do not travel distances to study. I took up this issue and held meetings with parents in four villages. They were enthusiastic about getting a high school opened in the area.? Mehra lobbied within the panchayat, got resolutions passed on the issue, and sent them to the block- and district-level education departments. Meanwhile, the parents' committee took out a rally to the district education office. During the campaign, Mehra and several others went to meet the district collector. She recalls: ?He wouldn't listen to us and referred us to someone junior. I told him: 'If you are the collector of this district, then I am the panch of my ward. Your work is to listen to me!'? The collector did listen then; he even told her to come to him with any other problems she may have in her constituency! Finally Mehra managed to get a school sanctioned and is working hard to see it up and running as soon as possible. Durgabai Tekam, 32, sarpanch of Partapur gram panchayat, Seoni district, also worked hard to get a high school in her area. She says: ?Girls dropped out after Class VIII because there was no high school. Boys managed to walk 10 km to the nearest high school, but it was a severe obstacle for girls.? Tekam surveyed the dropouts and identified 179 girls in the 12 villages of the panchayat who wanted to study further and had the consent of their parents. She motivated all 12 gram sabhas (village citizens' bodies) to pass resolutions for the opening of a high school in the panchayat. Meanwhile, until a school is sanctioned, some 20 girls are preparing to sit for the Class X exam through open school. Tekam managed to complete Class X before her marriage, and, by example, is able to inspire girls and their families about the value of education. Being a dalit, elected to a scheduled caste reserved seat, her campaign is particularly significant in terms of empowerment of dalit girls/women. Sheetala Singh, 33, block panchayat member, Rampur Baghelan block, district Satna, is working to motivate dropout girls to sit for the Class X exam as private candidates. She has studied up to Class X, and values her education immensely. She wants to bring this opportunity to the doors of every girl in the region. She says: ?The most difficult part is to motivate parents and families. Once they agree, it is easy to get the girls to study. They invariably work hard and do well.? Singh adds that a little support for fees goes a long way. Government schemes providing incentives for girl students, including scholarships and bicycles, are extremely helpful in furthering the cause of girls' education in rural areas. Rizvi, Mehra, Tekam and Singh were all given small fellowships by an NGO, Aagaz
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Academy, to help them realise their dream of promoting girls' education. Indira Pancholi of Aagaz Academy says: ?These women have achieved tremendous results in a short time. The reason is their own intense motivation to improve the lives of girls.?

Contact: Aagaz Academy Prayas Campus Chaurai Road Amarwara Chhindwara district Madhya Pradesh 4802211 Tel: +91 9329274901/ 07167-287255 (Deepti Priya Mehrotra is a Delhi-based writer) InfoChange News & Features, March 2009

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Right to Education Bill introduced in Rajya Sabha


The proposed legislation is a step towards a common school system, first proposed by the Kothari Commission, which aims to provide quality education and promises to counter the growing lobby for privatisation of school education The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008, recently introduced in the Rajya Sabha, is an enabling legislation without which the fundamental right -- enacted by Parliament in December 2002 -- cannot come into effect. The 86th constitutional amendment passed in Parliament six years ago made free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6 and 14 a fundamental right. Besides giving every child in this age-group the right to free and compulsory education, the Bill also seeks to evolve norms and standards for primary education, complete with minimum qualifications for teachers, pupil-teacher ratio, and a ban on private tuitions by teachers. The statement of object and reasons clearly explains the aim of the legislation: 'The proposed legislation is anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provision of inclusive elementary education to all.' The statement adds: 'The provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is, therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds.' The Bill provides that no child be denied admission for lack of age proof. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that every child in the target age-group has access to a school in the neighbourhood within three years of the law's enactment. The Bill also tries to rope in the private sector by making it mandatory for schools to reserve 25% of the seats in Class 1 every year for children from disadvantaged sections of society in the neighbourhood. The government will reimburse the education expenses of these students. The Bill prohibits the charging of capitation fees, making it a punishable offence with fines up to 10 times the capitation fee charged. It also prohibits screening of either parents or children at the time of admission; fines as high as Rs 25,000 will be levied
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for the first contravention and Rs 50,000 for subsequent contraventions. Detention or expulsion from any class until the completion of elementary education, and physical punishment, are also not permitted. None of this is expected to sit well with the private school lobby. The private school lobby has consistently called for an opening up of the education sector, allowing ?for-profit? organisations to play a role on grounds that government schools can't provide quality education. The passage of this Bill is not going to be easy. The biggest hurdle is expected to come from growing and influential private players in the education sector and their votaries among the country's political leadership. Several provisions in the Bill may not quite be to the liking of private players although they are in keeping with Article 15(5), which allows the State to make special provisions for the advancement of disadvantaged groups. The Centre is contemplating writing to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari to try and get the House to clear the Right to Education Bill in this session, bypassing customary scrutiny by a parliamentary panel. Once tabled, a Bill is generally referred to a parliamentary standing committee for its comments, although this is not mandatory. The panel usually takes a few months to conclude its findings, after which the recommendations are forwarded to the ministry concerned. Once the panel's suggestions are addressed, the House debates the Bill after which it is voted on. Source: The Hindu, December 16, 2008 The Economic Times, December 16, 2008 The Telegraph, December 16, 2008

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India invests just 3.3% of its GNP on education


UNESCOs Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2009 is a severe indictment of the Indian governments commitment to education. Indias public investment in education is 3.3% of its gross national product, lower than sub-Saharan Africas median. But it is not all doom and gloom. India is on track to achieving a net enrolment rate of over 97% by 2015 India is one of 17 countries in the world with the greatest number of out-of-school children. UNESCOs Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report 2009, released recently, says enrolment in secondary education in India increased from 39% in 1999 to 43% in 2006. Around 7.2 million Indian children are still out of school. On the positive side, the report says India is on track to achieving its enrolment targets for elementary education, which will be cut to just 600,000 in 2015. Of the 17 countries with most children out of school, just three -- Bangladesh, Brazil and India -- are on track to achieve NER (net enrolment rate) in excess of 97% by 2015, the report states. According to the 2001 national census, India has a literacy rate of 65%. UNESCOs annual report suggests a further strengthening of policy commitments towards quality education. The report highlights, among other things, the need to ensure that children have basic literacy and numeric skills. This has been an area of concern for India. Fewer than half the children in Grade 3 can read simple text; only 58% can subtract or divide, says a country-wide survey conducted in 2007. Teacher absenteeism is another area of concern. The report finds that contrary to popular perception, absenteeism among teachers plagues both private and government schools. It suggests greater commitment to reducing inequalities and sustained political leadership to reach education targets. The UNESCO report is not all negative. It explains how India was able to lead the aid relationship whilst finalising funds from the World Bank. This, the report suggests, was the result of low levels of aid dependence, high levels of government capacity, and strong national institutions for capacity-development. The present government has, after four-and-half years of delay, recently finalised and approved the Right to Education Bill. It is expected that the legislation, which is likely to be introduced in Parliament when it re-convenes in December, will help create the requisite environment to ensure quality in education.
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According to the report, in terms of absolute numbers, 80% of adult illiterates worldwide live in just 20 countries -- 50% of them in India, China and Bangladesh. And with the share of government expenditure on education dropping between 1999 and 2006 in 40 countries, including India, low-fee private primary schools are filling the slot. Poor quality government schools are important factors in the growth of private players. In India, contract teachers (para-teachers) have been used to increase the number of teachers in remote rural schools. As they are often less qualified and more inexperienced than civil service teachers (trained teachers), the situation raises concerns about providing teaching of equal quality to all areas, the report underlines. In South Asia, Bangladesh devotes 2.6% of its national income to education, Pakistan 2.7%, and India 3.3%. India, along with Bhutan and Nepal, has, however, achieved gender parity in primary education. But it has failed to arrest child mortality and malnutrition among children. Here, Bangladesh and Nepal have outperformed India. Had India reduced child mortality to Bangladeshs levels, it would have had 2 lakh fewer deaths in 2000, the report says. The report notes that one in three children in developing countries, around 193 million in all, reaches primary school age with impaired brain development and educational prospects, due to malnutrition. Around the world, the report says, millions of children are denied opportunities to go to school, condemning them to a life of poverty. It warns that a wide gulf in educational opportunity separating rich and poor countries seriously threatens global efforts aimed at achieving the internationally agreed target of universal primary education by 2015. Children in the poorest 20% of countries, such as Ethiopia, Mali and Niger, are three times less likely to be in primary school as children in the wealthiest 20%. In Peru and the Philippines, children in the poorest 20% receive five years less education than children in the wealthiest families. When financial systems fail, the consequences are highly visible and governments act. When education systems fail the consequences are less visible, but no less real, says UNESCO Director-General Kochiro Matsuura. Wealth is not the only marker of disadvantage. Girls remain a neglected segment, and discrimination based on language, race, ethnicity and rural-urban differences are
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deeply entrenched. The circumstances into which children are born, their gender, the wealth of their parents, their language and the colour of their skin should not define their educational opportunities, say the reports authors. The report adds that the world is not on target to achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary education. Despite some gains, UNESCO says, at least 29 million children will still be out of school by 2015. And this figure does not include conflict-affected countries such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The report identifies a range of policies to remedy extreme inequality, including the removal of school fees for basic education, increased public investment, and incentives for girls, whilst warning against decentralisation which often widens inequalities by reinforcing financing gaps between rich and poor regions. The international donor community has failed to deliver on the commitments it made in 2005 to increase aid by $50 billion with a current shortfall of $30 billion. The report estimates that the aid financing gap for achieving basic education by 2015 is around $7 billion annually. These large aid deficits are holding back progress, the report concludes. Source: The Economic Times, November 26, 2008 IANS, November 26, 2008 PTI, November 26, 2008 http://www.un.org , November 2008

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Right to Education Bill cleared


More than six decades after Independence, the Indian government has cleared the Right to Education Bill that makes free and compulsory education a fundamental right for all children between the ages of 6 and 14 The Union Cabinet has cleared the long-pending Right to Education Bill, which promises free and compulsory education to every child. The move should provide a much needed boost to the country's education sector. Key provisions of the Bill include: 25% reservation in private schools for disadvantaged children from the neighbourhood, at the entry level. The government will reimburse expenditure incurred by schools. No donation or capitation fee on admission. No interviewing the child or parents as part of the screening process. The Bill also prohibits physical punishment, expulsion or detention of a child, and deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes other than census or election duty and disaster relief. Running a school without recognition will attract penal action. Observing that it was an important promise to children, as education would become a fundamental right, India's Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that it would be the legally enforceable duty of the Centre and the states to provide free and compulsory education. He added that the human resources ministry would release the text of the Bill after consulting the Election Commission, in view of assembly polls in some states. The Group of Ministers (GoM) entrusted with the task of scrutinising the Bill cleared the draft legislation early this month without diluting its content, which includes the contentious provision of 25% reservation in private schools at the entry level, for disadvantaged children in the neighbourhood. Some see this as a way of getting the private sector to discharge the State's constitutional obligation. The Right to Education Bill is the enabling legislation to notify the 86th constitutional amendment that gives every child between the age of six and 14 the right to free and compulsory education. But it has been 61 years in the making. In 1937, when Mahatma Gandhi voiced the need for universal education he met with
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the same stonewalling about cost that dogs the issue today. The Constitution left it as a vague plea to the State to ?endeavour to provide free and compulsory education to all children up to age 14?, but access to elementary school still remains elusive today. It was only in 2002 that education was made a fundamental right in the 86th amendment to the Constitution. In 2004, the government in power, the NDA, drafted a Bill but lost the elections before it could be introduced. The present UPA's model Bill was then lobbed back and forth between the Centre and the states over the matter of funding and responsibility. Critics of the Bill question the age provision. They say children below six years and above 14 should be included. Also, the government has not addressed the issue of shortage of teachers, low skill levels of many teachers, and lack of educational infrastructure in existing schools let alone the new ones that will have to be built and equipped. The Bill had earlier faced resistance from the law and finance ministries on issues involving the states' financial contributions. The law ministry expected problems to arise from the 25% reservation, while human resource development ministry estimates put the total cost at Rs 55,000 crore every year. The Planning Commission expressed its inability to fork out the money; the state governments said they were unwilling to supply even part of the funding. The Centre was thus forced to think of footing the entire bill itself. The draft Bill aims to provide elementary schools in every neighbourhood within three years -- though the word ?school? encompasses a whole spectrum of structures. A set of minimum norms have been worked out as there's the usual barrier of paperwork in remote rural and poor urban areas. The State is also obliged to tide over any financial compulsions that may keep a child out of school. ?Laws and Bills don't make children go to school. Initially, there will be problems because while everyone must understand their social responsibility, what matters is whether the right children will have access to this programme. They say the fee component will be given by the government, but it's not fair to put that cost on others,? says Lata Vaidyanthan, Principal, Modern School, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi. Still, educationists who've rooted for the Bill argue that sharing social responsibility should be seen as a privilege, not a burden. Read the full text of the Bill at: http://educationforallinindia.com/RighttoEducationBill2005.pdf.

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Source: The Indian Express, November 3, 2008 The Financial Express, November 2, 2008 The Hindu, November 1, 2008 http://www.ndtv.com, November 2008 http://www.ilpnet.org, November 2008

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India's universal education programme receives DFID grant


The primary focus of the second phase of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan will be on getting girls and children from marginalised groups into school India's ambitious but often criticised universal education initiative -- Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) (Education for All) -- has received a Rs 1,200 crore grant from the UK's Department For International Development (DFID). The funds are for the second phase of the programme. The primary focus of SSA-2 will be on getting girls and children from marginalised groups into school. The SSA aims to ensure that all children between the ages of six and 14 are enrolled in primary school by 2010. Nemat Shafik, DFID's permanent secretary who was in the Indian capital recently, said she believes DFID played a major part in the success of SSA-1 in which enrolment rates rose to 96%. However, she added that the agency was worried that dropout rates were also high. That is why, she said, DFID is targeting child nutrition and gender discrimination in the education system. Shafik noted that the development programme for India is the largest the organisation has undertaken for over a decade. ?We see great changes happening here, India becoming a global power. But let us not forget that more than 400 million people live in extreme poverty and another 500 million live on between one and three dollars a day. Without education, India will not be able to consolidate the gains it has made economically so far.? Of the states DFID is looking at, Bihar features on the top of the list. ?There is a real need for urban services, health and medical care for pregnant women and newborns in the state. I am heartened with the resolve on the part of the state government to improve these services despite all the negative talk about the state,? Shafik said. Source: Hindustan Times, July 2, 2008 PTI, July 1, 2008

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Full marks for changing lives


By Tarannum Over 1,700 balika vidyalayas or residential schools for girls have been set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in educationally backward districts across 24 states. They teach not just the three Rs, but holistic health management, computer science and even disaster management

Every day, the lives of hundreds of adolescent girls belonging to the scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and other backward classes (OBC) in Uttar Pradesh are changing for the better. And the change has been brought about by the advent of quality education, courtesy the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) -residential schools set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Young women who could barely read or write until a few years ago can now converse fluently and confidently, dabble in creative writing, and use the computer. The KGBV scheme was launched in July 2004 in educationally backward blocks of the country where female rural literacy levels are below the national average (46.13%) and where the gender gap in literacy is above the national average (21.67%). The scheme provides a minimum reservation of 75% of seats for girls belonging to SC, ST, OBC and minority communities. For the remaining 25%, priority is given to those living below the poverty line. The scheme is operational in 24 states. As of January 10, 2008, 1,724 KGBVs were reported to be functional, with 123,511 girls enrolled across the country. The schools are run or supported by local NGOs -- like Disha in Saharanpur, Shahswat Sansthan in Sitapur, and Manav Vikas Kendra in Gorakhpur -- or by Mahila Samakhya, an education support project for rural women under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Amongst the 123-odd KGBVs across Uttar Pradesh, those run by Mahila Samakhya stand out for their achievements. Situated in districts like Mathura, Muzzafarnagar, Saharanpur, Sitapur, Balrampur, Shrawasti, Behraich, Gorakhpur, Mau, Chitrakoot, Allahabad, Varanasi, Jaunpur and Pratapgarh, the schools fulfil the norms relating to infrastructure, education and curriculum, with an emphasis on personality development. Interestingly, most of the institutions are not just looking to make the teenagers proficient at studies; they are grooming them to become confident young
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women and responsible citizens. Girls in the 10-18 age-group are accepted, though there have been instances of 22year-olds joining KGBVs. The girls are taught according to the curriculum set by the Uttar Pradesh State Board. Till last year they used to pass out from Class X, but this year onwards the schools have been extended till Class XII. At the end of the term the girls sit for the state-level board examination. Fifteen-year-old Sapna dropped out of school around five years ago because of financial constraints. When she joined the KGBV in Sitapur district two years ago she could not even speak properly. Today, Sapna reads and writes perfectly and has learnt to sing. Rojina, 14, a student of the KGBV in Behraich district, experienced a similar transformation. Having run away from home rather than be married off, she reached the school and expressed a desire to study. The Mahila Samakhya team then met Rojina's parents and convinced them to enrol her at the KGBV. A former school dropout, Rojina is now in Class V doing her parents proud with her grades and excellent art work. Ipsha Singh, the Mahila Samakhya coordinator in Sitapur, says: ?When the girls enrol, they are shy introverts and do not even talk to one another. But slowly their desire to study and come into their own takes over and their personality undergoes a complete change. Most of the girls discover latent talents.? Education has made a world of a difference to the lives of the young girls and has even initiated an attitudinal change in their parents. Heera, 17, who is a student at KGBV Gorakhpur, ran away from home and joined the school two years ago when her parents were insisting on getting her married. Now, as she is set to sit for her Class X exam, her father, Sangram Singh Rai, admits that his daughter's decision to study was the right one. ?Now, if nothing else, we will at least be able to find a better groom for her. Also, at the KGBV, my daughter has become more confident and healthier too,? he says with a smile. Monitoring and improving the health of the girls is an important function of the KGBVs, and so health charts are prepared regularly for each child. Interestingly, a look at some of the charts indicates that after their enrolment in school not only have most girls gained weight but those suffering from nutritional deficiencies, such as a low haemoglobin level, have improved. Reshma, 15, a student of KGBV Allahabad, had a haemoglobin count of around 6 (the ideal range is between 11 and 13 units) and weighed a mere 30 kg at the time of admission. Thanks to a sustained healthy diet at school she now weighs 46 kg and her haemoglobin count has reached 9. Meenakshi Singh, Mahila Samakhya coordinator,
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Allahabad, says: ?We follow a diet chart prepared by experts, which ensures maximum nutrition at minimal costs. The menu has a wide variety of items prepared hygienically in our own kitchens.? Singh recalls how one of the girls refused to eat when she first joined. ?She had never tasted dal (lentil) or rice topped with melted ghee (clarified butter). At her house they ate just once a day and, at times, had to even survive on water. When she got three regular meals she was scared, convinced that she would fall sick if she ate 'too much'.? It took a lot of convincing on Singh's part before the girl took to eating properly. She has now discovered she has a knack for cooking! But it's not just education and healthcare that the KGBVs concentrate on. Information technology (IT) and disaster management are also part of the curriculum. Dr Smriti Singh, programme officer at Mahila Samakhya, says: ?We try to educate these girls, around 100 at each centre, in such a way that they can move with the times. And computer learning is an essential part of this approach. As part of their summer training, we teach them to work on computers. Most girls have never even seen a computer. But now they are slowly learning. In fact, some have expressed a desire to become graduates in computer science after passing out from the KGBVs.? Mahila Samakhya has initiated a new disaster management training programme in their KGBVs, depending on relative region-specific natural disasters. For example, children in districts like Behraich, Balrampur and Shravasti will receive training in managing floods; those in Chitrakoot, Allahabad, Mau and Varanasi will be trained in groundwater and water management. Girls in the districts of western Uttar Pradesh will learn about rainwater harvesting. Dr Rashmi Sinha, state project director of Mahila Samakhya, explains: ?We want these students to not just help themselves during disasters, but also others around them. The training will now become a regular affair at all our KGBVs.? Women's Feature Service, July 2008

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