Monday, July 18, 2011

Right to free education in India comes with hidden costs: Study

New Delhi, Mar 31: A year has passed since the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act came into effect in the country but 10-year-old Meenu does not know yet how a classroom looks like as her village in the national capital does not have a school.

The fate is the same for thousands of other such poor children who reside in various villages in the country with no education facilities.

In a study conducted by an NGO working for uplift of street and working children, Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (BBA), in 251 schools in nine states of the country, alarming statistics has come to the fore.

At least 20 per cent schools were found still charging admission fee while 42 per cent schools charged money for study material. Plus, admission is not allowed at all times of the year in about 30 per cent of the schools.

"Government has utterly failed to address the children of hardest to reach categories which include bonded and child labourers, victims of trafficking, child prostitution and pornography, forced beggary and street children," human rights activist and founder of BBA Kailash Satyarthi said.

He added children with disabilities and HIV/AIDS, children from nomadic tribes, displaced and migrant families and those who live in abject poverty were also excluded from education.

The study, that was conducted to check if schools are able to implement RTE in states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan Jharkhand, among others, observed that 24 per cent children dropped-out from school while 50 per cent had no School Management Committees.

Referring to various facilities which should be provided to in the schools, the report noted that 16 per cent did not have drinking water, 33 per cent did not have separate toilets and 17 per cent did not provide study material or accessories like bag.

Mr Satyarthi, the architect of the single largest civil society network for the most exploited children -- Global March Against Child Labour -- further said exclusion of education directly related to social, cultural and economic exclusion.

"Education of such children must be taken care through a coordinated effort of various ministries and agencies because the issue has gone beyond the reach of education sector alone," he said.

The child rights organisation recommended that privatisation and commercialisation of education should be checked and multi stake-holder partnerships must be fostered at village level for the inclusion and retention of children.

The NGO stressed that there needs to be a joint monitoring of child labourers by Labour and Education departments.

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