Thursday, August 01, 2013

Gujarat govt "violating" right to education through pilot project on admitting poor children to private schools

By Our Representative
Can there be a pilot project on how to implement the Right to Education Act, which was passed by India’s Parliament four years ago? While this would look strange to any sensible person, particularly when a law has been passed and has also begun being implemented all over India, senior activist-turned-politician Sukhdev Patel believes that this is what the Gujarat government has tried to do in order to put to practice a government resolution (GR), which decided to set aside just about 5,300 seats all over Gujarat among the non-granted privately-run primary schools for children of the poorer sections.
Calling the move “highly objectionable”, Patel, who is a senior child rights expert, says, “The GR, bought out in 2013 and being implemented now, unfortunately, was brought in, in lieu of the provision of 25 per cent reservation for poor and deprived children in privately-owned unaided primary schools. Even this GR is not being implemented. The GR itself was deliberately brought late by a year. Even after it was brought in, the decision to set aside merely 5,300 seats in private schools is simply laughable, and suggests the Guajrat government’s lack of interest in implementing the RTE.”
Patel further adds, “Even the 5,300 seats set aside for the poor and the deprived was not implemented till July. The result is, in the hope of getting quality education, large number of poor and deprived children took admission in the private schools by paying very high fees. There is no provision in Gujarat for the parents of these children to get back the fees that they have paid.” He adds, “Under the RTE, it is the duty of the government to provide free and compulsory education up to the primary level. It is this provision which is sought to be violated.”
Heading the Gujarat chapter of Anil Kerjiwal’s Aam Admi Party (AAP), Patel -- who has represented on the matter to  the Gujarat government through the district collector, Ahmedabad -- has demanded that these children should be provided “free education at government cost” and whatever spending the parents have made should be “returned forthwith”, failing which he and his supporters would begin agitation. 
“There are government resolutions which clearly say that the government is obliged to provide free and compulsory education, including textbooks, to children", he said, regretting that there are a large number of provisions of the RTE which the Gujarat government has still not implemented. Thus, despite clear-cut RTE guidelines, the state government has still not implemented eighth class in the primary schools even today, “which should also be put into practice immediately.”
Refusal to implement 25 per cent reservation for backward children in private primary schools comes at a time when a recent study submitted to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Gujarat, by Dalit Hit Rakshak Manch (DHRM), based on gathering secondary data of the SSA portal of the Gujarat government, reveals that there has been a quantum jump of the number of privately-run unaided schools across Gujarat. There were 3,293 private unaided schools with 6,90,433 students in 2005-06, which reached 6,403 private unaided schools with 20,13,161 children in 2010-11.
During the same period, there was a stagnation in the admission to government schools, the study reveals. Thus, in 2004-05, there were 32,258 government schools, in which 59,63,898 students were admitted. While the number of government schools slightly went up to 33,537 in 2010-11, these schools admitted lesser number of children – 59,17,835. As for the government aided private schools, their numbers increased from 765 schools with 1,55,808 students in 2005-06 to 788 with 2,14,049 students – which again goes to suggest that government schools were not being “preferred”.

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