Right To Education (RTE) helpline (1800 4253 4567) was launched recently by the Social Welfare Department of Karnataka, which allows one to lodge complaints and get information on the Act. The Executive Director of the Child Rights Trust, Vasudeva Sharma, spoke to RadioActive about how the helpline could be used effectively.
Vasudeva Sharma explained that the RTE Act had been introduced way back in 2009 in Karnataka, and a lot of calls used to be received by the Child Rights Trust members on their personal numbers seeking clarifications. Even though there were no instructions available regarding RTE at that time, they used to clarify or give information in a comprehensible way. Of late, the calls had been about more specific and less common information.
He said they had attempted to set up a hotline back then, which failed because their personal numbers were still popular. The new helpline would have to have employees well-versed in the intricacies of RTE – the national Act as well as the rules for Karnataka and section (12)(1)(C), because (12)(1)(C) was often misused.
He spoke about the dangers of (12)(1)(C) being misused and despite it having popular aspects like forbidding corporal punishment, or stating the kinds of facilities an institution must have, how that could cause people to lose trust in it. It gave the impression that (12)(1)(C) was introduced as an attempt to control private institutions, as the condition laid down for availing this provision spoke only of what was expected of the institutions without placing any responsibility on the government. With the rampant misuse of this section, private institutions became richer but could not be brought under the control – and that such situations would lead to mistrust in the RTE Act itself.
Vasudeva Sharma said that he used to find a lot of children in government schools, but of late the number had been dwindling because they had moved to private schools. However, over time, parents were faced with demands for multiple additional payments. This at times forced the children back into government schools, and other times, they continued education there despite the heavy expenditure.
He also proposed some solutions:
- Informed discussions to clarify ambiguous aspects of RTE.
- Protecting the provisions of (12)(1)(C).
- RTE should be made a protocol instead of merely a rule or an Act.
- (12)(1)(C) students and their families should know their rights during admission process, the duty of the school towards them and what the government has to do for them.
- These rights need to be displayed at admission centres in schools and needs to be given as a signed document to each of the children.
- Need to think far ahead and revolutionise (12)(1)(C).
- Need to have support from social and visual media.
- Need to start pressuring the state ministry and HR authorities in Centre – the public needs to get involved in this immediately so that there will be a viable solution by 2019, by the time the first batch students complete their 8th standard.
- Clarity is needed about the future of such children – whether they can continue their studies in the same schools with the government prescribed fees, or if they have to move out to other schools or if they are expected to go by the private school fee structure.
- Amendments need to be made to (12)(1)(C) to extend the benefits up to 18 years of age.
- The data of the previous beneficiaries needs to be collected in order to study the effect it had on them, and that a team will have to collect the statistics and study them for improvements.
On the move to make 8th standard the equivalent of 10th standard, Vasudeva Sharma said that though there had been discussions, the Central Government was yet to make a decision. He opined that it could not be taken without thorough discussions and analysis but was apprehensive about the imbalance a positive answer would create.
Vasudeva Sharma said that ignorance among activists and officials will deprive the children of the rights extended to them by the government. He suggested that guidelines be prepared wherein the responsibilities of each official is clearly mentioned and that such clarity would enable effective implementation of the Act.
He added that ignorance causes lack of coordination between the concerned departments and organisations, which could lead to failure of the programme.