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Right to Education? 10% schools comply with RTE, 2 lakh closed down: South Asia consultative meet told

By Our Representative
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, which came into effect in 2010, widely acclaimed as the cornerstone for "improving" the educational scenario in India, over the last eight years of its existence has seen less than 10% of Indian schools complying with its provisions to ensure universalisation of education.
Revealing this, Ambarish Rai, who heads RTE Forum, told a consultative meet meet of the South Asia Regional Forum for Safe and Secure Education in Delhi that not only there exists a huge vacancy of 5 lakh teachers’ posts, there are around 9 lakh teachers who are still untrained in India.
"A total 8% schools are single teacher schools. Poor infrastructure, issue of timely disbursement of teaching – learning materials and lack of adequate resources are some of the persistent problems that affect the learning environment in Schools", he added.
What is worse, said Rai, “We have recently seen that a large number of schools, more than 2 lakhs indeed, being shut down in the name of rationalization, with private entities coming up to occupy the educational space, leading to mushrooming of low cost for-profit private schools."
Organised jointly by the RTE Forum along with South Asia Forum, Rai told the meet, “Educational scenario in India and other South Asian countries is quite similar. There are many important and common areas like the universalisation of school education, adequate resources, equity and inclusion, teacher issues and increasing commercialisation of education, which provide us opportunities to work together in South Asia region.”
Inaugurating the meet, Union minister of state (independent charge), housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri sought coming together of government, private sector and civil society organisations to ensure safe and secure education to all, particularly girls. He said, focus should be on educating girls as anchor of all kind of progress.
Evading issues raised by Rai, Puri said, “Girls’ education is a pre-requisite of all-round development of the country. India can truly achieve sustainable and inclusive development only through a proper and compatible education system for girls in safe and secure atmosphere. All stake-holders have to join hands and work in tandem to achieve this goal.”
He dwelt on what he called "remarkable success in post-colonial reconstruction endeavour", insisting, "It has made its mark in every field at global platform. It has a robust economy of five trillion dollars with a remarkable growth rate. To continue this success, India has to work more vigorously on gender empowerment, which can be ensured only through girls’ education."
The minister said, only "quality infrastructure, safe and conducive atmosphere and quality curriculum can motivate girls and their family towards education", adding, "It’s a hard reality that large number of girls are still deprived of education system. Drop- out rate among girls are very high. There are various reasons which compel girls to leave their education midway and safety is the foremost factor."
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship missions of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan are capable of dealing with these pressing issues", he claimed.
Speaking at the meet, Eric Falt, director, UNESCO, for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka, said, "We must end violence against girls, particularly in schools. Only then we can be able to motivate them towards education."
According to him, “Violence against girls vitiates overall atmosphere including educational one. All policy and programmes will get ineffective because of violence against girls in schools.
He added, "Mistreatment and sexual harassment in schools have made girls’ life miserable these days. Learning without fear is the need of the hour. All governments should design appropriate policies to end gender based inequality and violence."
Participating in four different sessions, prominent persons who took part in the discussions included Kumar Bhattarai, chairperson, National Campaign for Education, Nepal; and Radhika Alkazi, steering committee member, South Asia Regional Forum on Safe and Secure Education; Prof Muchkund Dubey, former Foreign Secretary; Aminulhaq Mayel, deputy director, programmes, Swedish Committee of Afghanistan; and Papia Ferdousei from the BRAC Education Programme, Bangladesh.
Also present were top civil society representatives, including Alka Singh, head, policy and advocacy, Save the Children, India; Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India; Dr Colin Gonsalves, founder, Human Rights Law Network, and senior advocate, Supreme Court; and Anjela Taneja, technical director, education, Care India.

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