Classrooms give shelter to cows and buffaloes, while students sit outside in the compound. Children carry their own plates to school for mid-day meals and later rush back home on the pretext of washing the dishes, but never come back for classes.
School management committees are told by teachers that no one has the right to seek any information from the school authorities. The scenario gets worse if the panchayat facilitators happen to be women or those from the disadvantaged sections.
These are some of the issues that came up during the post-facto social audit of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2010 (RTE) conducted across India.
If this was the situation in the rural areas, urban centres like Delhi and fast-growing States such as Tamil Nadu fared no better. The social audit in Delhi and Tamil Nadu could not be completed because the authorities refused to share details with the facilitators.
In the national capital, only the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) responded to the questionnaire sent by Josh, a non-governmental organisation working with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
The Delhi government, which runs schools for Class VI students and above, did not bother to reply. In Tamil Nadu, there was reluctance to part with basic information on statistics of school education, because of a general perception that the RTE Act is to be implemented only by the State Board.
The experiences were shared at a brainstorming session organised by the NCPCR here to draw up a methodology for conducting a concurrent or daily monitoring.
Broadly, the issues discussed were poor infrastructure, including no separate toilets for girls, missing teachers, lack of knowledge of RTE and poor maintenance of records. Most of the schools complained that the Human Resource Development circulars on the RTE Act had not reached the schools and the teachers were ill-quipped and ill-trained to implement new concepts of teaching under the Act. The rules of the RTE Act are yet to be notified in Uttar Pradesh, which is the biggest hurdle in making things move, Malini Ghose of the Nirantar Trust pointed out.
But there has also been a positive side to all this. The Special Project Officer (RTE) in Haryana has drawn up an action plan to bring over one lakh children outside the schooling system into the system after the NCPCR social audit brought it to his notice. Mewat district alone has 87,000 children who are not attending schools. Now, the challenge is to implement the plan.
In Maharashtra, the Chief Minister issued an order to ensure all schools followed the provisions of the RTE Act and the District Collector of Amaravati directed that students would not be made to clean toilets.
According to Rajendra Prasad of M.V. Foundation that conducted the social audit in Andhra Pradesh, wherever it was brought to the notice of the authorities that schools had collected fee for admissions and were issuing various certificates, orders had been issued to refund the fee.
Henri Tiphagne of the People's Watch in Tamil Nadu said a lot of awareness was created in the State after the social audit was conducted in November last . “Soon we will see communities taking over the implementation of RTE instead of NGOs,” he said.
“There is not a single provision of the RTE Act that has not been violated in Bihar, but there is a lot of demand from the people about entitlement for their children, which will make the things move,” said Biplav Ghosh of Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti.