Sunday, July 07, 2013

NCPCR team to visit Gujarat in July third week to inquire into implementation of right to education Act

Locked toilet in a Kutch school
By Our Representative
A high-level National Protection for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) team is expected to visit Gujarat in the third week of July this year on the basis of inquiries it made following a recent NGO survey, “Study on Implementation of Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009”, which found that the Gujarat government has failed to implement the main provisions of the RTE. According to informed sources, the team is likely to particularly focus on Kutch schools, from where it got ground-level reports that the situation with regard to implementation of RTE is the worst, especially in the remote villages.
Carried out by Janvikas, the survey is focused on 506 primary schools in Ahmedabad, Anand, Kheda, Kutch, Mehsana, Panchmahal, Sabarkantha and Vadodara districts. The study found that the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) was the worst in the schools in Kheda district (100%), followed by Kutch (92%) and Vadodara (89%). The study says, “This has a direct impact on the children's basic literacy skills of counting and, language viz. reading and writing. Therefore the children are also de-motivated and the chances of drop-out are high.
A teacher in Class I in Gomtipur Urdu Shala in Ahmedabad district having classes from I-V Standard has been quoted as saying, “I have to handle 80 children in the classroom. It is equivalent to two classes. I have to give quality feedback also. Sometimes if my colleague is on leave, I have to handle 150 children, which is impossible. I cannot teach, my entire energy goes in controlling kids. I go home tired, with headache, with no motivation to come back again to teach”.
The study reveals, “Overall about 35% of the schools did not have adequate number of subject teachers. This indicates a grave picture, where the schools are not equipped to handle the children or give them qualitative inputs. This has affected the education of children. Overall there is 80% deficit in the pupil room ratio in schools having Std. I –V."
This is a very high percentage for any state, let alone Gujarat, which otherwise has very good infrastructure. Kheda district (100%) and Kutch (100%) top the chart, followed by Panchmahal (92%).All the districts face inadequacy in number of classrooms, teachers handle two standards in one classroom. As schools having Std. I –VIII, the percentage of adequate teachers is 54% in Gujarat. In Sabarkantha it was 87% followed by Anand with 85% and Kutch district with 63%.
Yet another RTE requirement is that each standard should have a separate class-room and a classroom should be of 300 sq. ft. “During observation method, it was found that many schools were having two standards combined in one class because of lack of students. The teachers find it difficult to cope up with teaching two standards at a given point of time as they have to take two subjects of two different standards in the same class. It is difficult for a teacher to pay attention to all especially to children who are shy and quiet“, the study says.
“Overall deficit ratio in schools having Std. I –VIII is 54%. Sabarkantha with 87% schools was at the first spot followed by Anand with 85% and Kutch district with 63%”, the study says, adding, as for midday meals, it was found that 24% of the schools did not have space or shed for cooking. About 76% of the schools in Ahmedabad do not have cooking space or shed for cooking because the mid-day meals are supplied by Akshaya patra and Stree Shakti organizations and therefore there was not much need for such a shed. However, districts that fared poorly were Anand (22%), followed by Kheda (20%) and Mehsana (20%). 
The study says, “It was observed that in most of the districts the cooking shed was in dilapidated condition and many of the kitchens did not have a roof. In all, 94% of the schools received adequate quantity mid-day meals, but it was difficult to exactly measure the quota of mid-day meals served to the children. Yet, it was observed, in Panchmahals district, there was discrepancies in serving mid-day meals, followed by Kutch district. In Khavda region of Kutch it was observed that the teachers were quite irregular and therefore the mid-day meals were not prepared regularly.
While 82% of the schools had seating arrangements for midday meals, random observation of 35 schools in eight districts revealed that, things were contrary to the RTE, under which midday meals should be served in a clean hygienic environment. It was observed in Mehsana district, Kanya Pratmik Shala-1 that there is no separate space for children to eat and therefore the children sit in the lobby of the abandoned school building and have midday meals. 
Unused midday meal shed in a Kutch school
In Panchmahals district, in one of the schools, a case of discrimination was reported by one of the parents in serving mid day meals. Some parents belonging to marginalized community said that their children did not receive cooked food and when their child protested about discrimination the teachers used derogatory words against the child.
The study says that the quantitative data did show that most schools have clean drinking water for children. There are few schools that do have even purifying systems but many don't. Around 88% of the schools have access to drinking water facilities. Yet, Kutch fared poorly with non-availability of water (30%) and 15 schools followed by Vadodara (28%) and Anand (11%). There was complaint of not having clean drinking water at most places.
The three major issues related to the provision of drinking water are – the source of the water, quality of water and storage of water. However, the study says, “In majority of the cases the water is put directly into the storage tank, without any purification. The tanks in a lot of schools are old cement tanks. There is no system in place of getting the tanks cleaned. The structure of most tanks is such that it is not possible to get them cleaned. Tanks have fungus growing on the inside of the walls. There are several cases where the lids of the tanks are rusted and at times the tanks do not have a lid.”
Further, the study found, “The area around the water tank is dirty as there is no proper outlet for the excess water to drain away properly. Many times children wash their plates near the same water tank due to lack of facility to wash their dishes after MDM. This makes the surroundings dirty. Kutch district has the tanks to store water but as there is water shortage in the villages, drinking water in schools is a far cry. Kheda district shows 100% drinking water facility but purification and storage of the water is a matter of concern.”
Further, it was found that the toilet blocks are not a part of the main school building at most places. The study says, “This makes it difficult for children to use them during monsoon. In a majority of the cases the urinals are open from the top and have only half partitions. There are no doors and no roof in large number urinals of the schools. This is not safe and would deter older children, especially girls from using such toilets. A large number of toilets were found locked as well. So the toilets were not useable. The structure of the urinal is inappropriate as there is no hole in the ground; it had a flat surface, no flushing system and no provision of water, hence it is unhygienic and difficult to keep clean.”
Further, “there is no provision of toilets for differently-abled children. Kutch district has 100% separate toilets in the 50 schools surveyed. But in the schools of Khavda, there is no water in the school or in the village. The toilets once used have never been cleaned or used again, as a result a large number of schools have kept their toilets locked.” 

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