The provision of 25 percent reservation for economically and socially weaker section in private schools under the RTE Act is an important clause that allows integration of these children with private school system.
However this clause should not allow the government to abdicate its responsibility to provide not only free and compulsory but quality education to all the children from 6-14 years of age.
More than 80 per cent of the children continue to study in government schools in India whose quality of education has often been a great cause of concern.
According to Annual Status Report of Education 2011, quoted by the union government itself in its Annual Economic Survey 2011-12:
- 56 per cent of the schools in India still have no separate toilets for girls
- 28.6 per cent of the schools still do not have libraries
- 60 per cent of the schools still do not comply with the Teachers pupil ratio of 1:30 as stipulated in the RTE Act
- 28 per cent of the schools have no playground
- 16.6 per cent of the schools have no provision for drinking water
- Around 45 per cent of the schools do not have even their own boundary wall
- More than half of standard 2 and standard 4 classes sit together with another class.
The Centre has already come out with model rules which explain in detail the modus operandi of implementation of provision of 25 per cent reservation for children belonging to economically and socially weaker section in private schools as provided in the RTE Act.
According to these model rules, the private schools, “shall ensure that children (from disadvantaged sections) …. shall not be segregated from the other children in the classrooms nor shall their classes be held at places and timings different from the classes held for the other children.”
These rules further clarify, that the private schools shall ensure that “children admitted in (schools) shall not be discriminated from the rest of the children in any manner pertaining to entitlements and facilities such as text books, uniforms, library and ICT facilities, extra-curricular and sports.”
However, these are model rules enacted by the Centre but education being a subject in the state list, the challenge is to ensure that all the states come out with effective state rules to implement this provision at the ground level.
The resulting guidelines from these Rules should not only ensure integration of children from marginalised sections of society in the private schools but should also ensure their protection from discrimination within these school systems – what mechanisms will be in place to ensure that children from marginalised are not discriminated in any form and their dignity are protected?
Mere incorporation of a provision within the Act will not automatically lead to its implementation in a manner that is meaningful and relevant for these children. In fact, the 25% reservation clause is fraught with challenges and raises many questions which need to be answered.
Apart from tuition fees, which will be free, children studying in private schools have to pay money for a range of activities and items throughout the year. Who will pay for them? What about mid day meals for these children?
What will a child do after 8th Standard? The government will not pay after the child turns 14. In this scenario, the child will either take admission in a Government school or drop out of schooling altogether. Are we ready with a solution for the problem of dropouts? After class 8, will these children pushed out from the private schools? How will they adjust in government schools at this stage?
How do we ensure that the children from the marginalised sections who get admission under the reservation system get integrated with other children and do not face any kind of discrimination in classrooms?
The private schools, State and the civil society would have to come together, join hands and find viable solutions to all these questions. Otherwise the implementation of the provision for reservation for children would not yield desirable results.
So while the government needs to put a strict and effective monitoring and implementation system in place to implement the 25 per cent reservation in private schools for children from economically and socially weaker sections. In this context it is also necessary to reinforce that the principal responsibility for ensuring universalisation of elementary education lies with the government.
(The writer is chief executive officer of Child Rights and You (CRY), an Indian NGO)
For more information, please contact Arun Anand: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +91 11 3017 4700.
Note to the Editor:
CRY – Child Rights and You (formerly known as Child Relief and You) is an Indian NGO that believes in every child’s right to a childhood – to live, learn, grow and play. For over 30 years, CRY and its partners have worked with parents and communities to ensure Lasting Change in the lives of more than 20 Lakh underprivileged children. For more information please visit us at http://www.cry.org