New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) Three years since it came into being and promised free and compulsory education to all children in the 6-14 age group in India, redressing violations of the Right to Education (RTE) Act across the country has been apparently poor, a fact ascribed by the chief monitoring body to teacher shortage and lack of educational infrastructure.
An RTI reply reveals that till date only 32 percent cases of violation have been dealt with. According to the RTI reply, of the 3,632 complaints received over the last three years, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the chief monitoring body for the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, has been able to act on just 1,191 cases. In other words, 68 percent of the cases remain unacted.
RTI activist Rashmi Gupta, who had sought the information, said that the figures are disheartening, to say the least.
A different RTI querry filed by Gupta further revealed that the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has received 557 complaints of RTE violations in the last three years, of which 116 have been disposed of - a disposal rate of 21 percent.
"Under sections 27 and 28 of the RTE Act, these commissions (state commissions and the NCPCR) are to monitor and redress violations of the Act. The RTI data shows the lack of efficacy on the part of the commissions in redressing grievances. So where do parents and guardians go if a child's right to education is violated?" Gupta asked.
"Hence it is important that the accountability (of the commissions) is fixed," she added.
To give some state-wise examples: NCPCR received 970 complaints from Delhi over the last three years. Only 235 have been disposed of until now. Similarly, of the 842 complaints received from Andhra Pradesh, only 44 have been disposed of.
In the case of Uttar Pradesh, 83 of the 179 complaints have been disposed of and in the case of Maharashtra, 108 of 150 have been disposed of.
Elaborating on the nature of complaints received, the RTI reply states: "Infrastructure, corporal punishment, denial of admission, denial of entitlements, pupil-teacher ratio, and detention are the major issues regarding which complaints were made."
Surprisingly, NCPCR chairperson Shantha Sinha has a different take on the figures revealed by the RTI reply. "Every complaint that has come to us has been disposed of. We don't have any case pending," Sinha told IANS.
When questioned about the discrepancy in her statement and what her department revealed in the RTI reply, Sinha said: "There has been a misunderstanding. What the RTI reply meant by disposal was closing down of a case. It's true that a little over 30 percent of the complaints, or cases have been closed down, and that is because we don't close a case until we are satisfied with the action taken."
Sinha said that the biggest challenge has been addressing the shortage of qualified teachers.
"Shortage of trained teachers remains a problem. Recruitment of teachers is still in process...there are still para-teachers and Shiksha Mitras. Infrastructure is also a challenge, like toilets and clean drinking water in all schools. Things are not becoming worse, but progress is very slow," she admitted.
On the positives, the chairperson said that since the Act's implementation, awareness among parents about their child's education has increased, and so has the enrolment rate in schools. However, the recently released Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) raised questions about the quality of education.
"You can't look at quality of education in isolation, because to ensure quality, other factors have to be considered, like good teachers. A lot of work is still to be done, and the field of education needs more investment," Sinha said.
(Azera Rahman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)