Kolkata, Oct 21(IANS) A public hearing conducted by National Commission Protection Child Rights (NCPCR) unveiled a horrific picture of the rampant violation of the right to education act in West Bengal's government schools.
The two-day-long hearing that concluded Friday dealt with Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, besides the issue of child trafficking in South 24 Parganas district.
'We heard many cases of violations of the right to education act,' NCPCR Chairperson Shanta Sinha said. 'We have seen cases were students in government schools have been charged money in the name of development fees and school fees.'
She termed this a total contradiction. 'The act provides for free and compulsory education between the age group of 6-14 years,' Sinha said at a press conference here.
'The teacher-student ratio was also not maintained according to the act,' she said. 'There were no proper bathroom facilities for girls, no proper drinking water in many schools. There has also been discrimination on the basis of caste and creed.'
Sinha mentioned a case study were a tribal student was given a seat in a tribal hostel against a fee of Rs.1,000.
'It is really astonishing that there is such corruption,' Sinha said. 'A tribal student was given a seat in tribal hostel against a fee, although the tribal hostel is free for tribal students.'
Sinha also pointed out the lack of coordination and lethargy among social welfare departments and investigating agencies. She also said that coordination between various states should be done properly to bring back children trafficked to other states.
'We have heard numerous child trafficking cases, where parents face lot of problems in lodging complaints about missing children. Even if the complains are lodged, a lot of time is taken in starting investigation. Effective coordination is needed between both the police and social welfare department,' Sinha said.
Over 50 non-judicial cases of child trafficking were lodged from South 24 Parganas district and brought to the notice of police stations and, subsequently, 15 days were given to them. A few cases were solved within this period but most remained unsolved.
The commission mandated that all laws, policies, programmes and administrative mechanisms were in consonance with child rights, as enshrined in the Constitution of the India and also the UN convention on the rights of the child.
Sinha demanded the immediate withdrawal of two state government orders passed in January and February: one listing alternative punishment to corporal punishment and another legitimising the levy of development fees on students.
'It has been said that a school can impose fine and penalties on a child. You can remove a student who is disruptive from the classroom. It has also been said that a child can be stopped from participating in sports and extra curricular activities,' she said.
'Then money is being charged in many government schools,' Sinha said. 'This is a total violation of the right to education act.'
Asked how West Bengal would be rated for preservation of child rights, Sinha said, 'I won't make any comment now as I don't have the data but I can only say that child rights needs to be prioritized.'
She also mentioned that newly formed West Bengal government should set up a state commission for the protection of child rights.