“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”

Nelson Mandela

As a young democracy, India is growing in leaps and bounds on the education front. The farsightedness of the founders of the nation in providing ample importance to educational growth has paid rich dividends to us as a Nation. Historically, education occupied prominent position in India. The ancient learning systems were oriented towards earning a living. Internationally also India was the top destination for students from other countries coming in for higher studies. Nalanda, one of the biggest centres, had all the branches of knowledge, and housed up to 10,000 students at its peak. After Independence, the policy makers worked hard to transform the elitist system of education created by the British into a mass based system, built on principles of equality and social justice.

Free and compulsory education of children in the 6 to 14 age group in India became a fundamental right when, in 2002, Article 21-A was inserted in the 86th Amendment to the Constitution. This right was to be governed by law, as the state may determine, and the enforcing legislation for this came eight years later, as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2010, or the RTE Act.

But What is the reality?

There have been challenges in this journey too. Access to education is still a dream for many, especially in the remote and rural areas where there are no school buildings or even possibility of reaching the school during rain or snow. Equitable educational access to tribals, marginalized, SCs and STs is a major point of concern with policy makers trying to bring them into the nation building process. Safety concerns as also lack of toilets for girls in rural areas resulting in alarming levels of drop outs. Disabled Children’s with special needs have invariably been relegated to the unseen corners while planning for education. These issues are now being recognized and the government is working on several initiatives for inclusive growth of these sections of society on priority. Technology is being used to provide better access to education through several programmes like SWAYAM and National Digital Library.

At the time of attaining freedom, India’s literacy rate was just 12 per cent. Today, as per 2011 census, our literacy rate comes to 74.4 per cent. Kerala with 93.91 and Mizoram with 91.58 per cent lead and inspire other states to achieve further heights. There have been challenges and shortcomings in this journey too.

In the recent Pandemic private schools and colleges are forcing students and their parents to pay fees. They have blocked students form attending online classes due to non-payment of the term. There are campaigns organised by private unaided schools “NO FEES, NO SCHOOL” due to their unprecedent financial crisis due to non-payment of fees. They claim fees is the only source of revenue to run the school.

We only save on electricity and water charges which is a paltry seven percent of our total expenditure. It is unfair to that schools alone should shoulder the burden of educating our children,” says Bharat Malik, vice-president, (Federation of School Association of Maharashtra).

As Indian battles Covid-19, and states imposing restrictions the unemployment is at its peak, millions of people lost their jobs due to lockdown and hundreds of children lost both their parents during covid. What future holds for them?

With Schools pressurizing parents for the payment of fees it should also see the vulnerability of these situations. Schools should not harm students and give any mental trauma to parents and students over the fees. Recently The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) has recommended cancellation of recognition of five private schools for depriving students of education because of pending fees. The Civic officer claims that these schools are violating Section 16 of the Right to Education Act (RTE), 2009, no child can be left behind until he or she completes his or her primary education. 

The Supreme court recently in its case held that private school demanding fees from students for the activities and facilities not availed by them due to lockdown amounting to ‘Profiteering’ and ‘Commercialisation’.

The schools can only ask for tuition fees in this matter, through which it can meet the expenses of operational cost.

With above clash between schools and parents, here State should involve itself to protect the fundamental right of Children’s to get education. State should not shy away with its responsibility; the onus of free and compulsory education lies on State. However, the ‘compulsory’ and ‘state liability’ part needs to be imbibed.

RTE is a game changer and is trying to universalise education system, but a law is as good or as bad as its implementation. It is unfair to blame legislation alone for the sad state of affairs without implementing it in full measure, especially its enabling provisions. Open-minded adoption of these provisions, keeping the child in mind, can go a long way in radically transforming our school education sector.



Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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