Saturday, January 5, 2013

Any hope of getting Right to Education ensured in Jharkhand?

child rescued from worksite..which was better- the workplace or this school?

It is common knowledge that the Right to Education Act has been enforced in the state and that it aims at universalisation of education for all 6-14 year olds in the state. However where to wy stand today in its implementation?
With either the student or the teacher being absent, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) schools are not functioning regularly. At many places the teachers are seen defending the children who have not come to school or have dropped out. However it is the responsibility of the teacher to be in control and to ensure that each child enrolled is coming to school and is benefitting.
The para teachers went on strike for more than a month. While the Human Resources Department maintained that stop gap arrangements were made to prevent the running of schools from being hampered the ground reality was that the education system had completely fallen apart during the strike period with classes not being held at all.
The SSA in its bid to take every child to school has made dual enrolments at several places and there is also no mechanism to keep a track of the child who drops out. As several media reports have highlighted in the past, the quality of the schools is poor and the system is suffering from serious shortage of teachers. Around 2000 more teachers are needed in Latehar district itself.
5138 schools in the state are functioning with single teachers and 57.8 percent schools do not maintain the standard student teacher ratio. There are also such schools where the number of children enrolled is very less and the corresponding number of teachers is high.
Having subject wise teachers is a distant dream. There is shortage of classrooms, toilets are mostly absent and many are present but non-functional and drinking water is not available in 25 schools. Ramps constructed for the handicapped in the schools are poorly constructed and have gradient issues. Library, play equipments and playgrounds are facilities which cannot be thought of in these schools.
Jharkhand being a naxal infested state has not issued any directives till date for the safety of the teachers recruited in the extremism prone areas. The result is that teachers refrain from holding classes as there have been cases in the past where the school building was destroyed by the extremists.
The state has a “force” of 28,000 untrained teachers i.e. the para teachers who are paid a pittance as compared to the regular SSA teachers.
More than 8,800 teachers for child with special needs are required and the state has about 250 such teachers on its payroll. These teachers are also not able to perform efficiently in the absence of trainings.  An example from the field can explain the status wherein a teacher for the special quoted a deaf and dumb child as “mentally retarded”.
The state does not have its own curriculum and hence no text books of its own. This issue has been pending for a decade! The SCERT is non-functional and the Director, Higher Education has been given the additional charge of Director, SCERT last week this year. The text books reached the children only after four to six months in 2012.
The SSA used to impart Bridge Courses to children who have never been to school or had dropped out so that they could come up to their age level and be enrolled in to age appropriate classes. These Bridge Courses were being run through NGOs and with complete withdrawal of this curriculum, civil society involvement in to SSA activities is completely nil today. The role of the civil society could have been vital in tracking migrant children, mobilizing of SMCs, motivating the mothers in playing an active role in the SMC, tracking bonded labour, child labour and related issues.
The “Abhyas Prayas” bridge course material developed by UNICEF and CINI for SSA is out of use and redundant today. However it has been circulated to all 30 NCLP special schools meant for child labourers at Ranchi and the educators are imparting non-formal bridge course education through these materials.
The school management committees are functional only on paper and in the current scenario the SMC is equivalent to the school head master. Community involvement, awareness of roles and capacity building of these committees are a big question mark today. They have no clue on grievance redressal mechanisms and are totally incompetent in managing ground level issues. The school development plans submitted by these SMCs are largely compiled by the school head master on his own.
The government has no mechanisms to monitor private schools. No circular has gone from the government to these schools clarifying on how the 25 percent reservation money will be sent to the schools. Owing to this, the private are schools are refraining from enrolling the under privileged and minority children.
There is a child helpline of which there is no awareness. The DIET is largely non-functional.
It is unfortunate that there has been no director SSA since April, 2012 in the state and the principal secretary is in dual charge. The director’s position is crucial and has a huge mandate which cannot be justified through such an arrangement. Even the District Superintendent of Education (DSE) are being transferred frequently. Relevant directives are either not being issued or not followed up when issued.
There are no grievance redressal mechanisms for RTE in the state and no officials have been notified for the same. Another issue of concern is the non-functional State Commission for Protection of Child Rights which was recently constituted. The commission is at a nascent stage and is grappling with issues of its own infrastructure and other logistics.
This kind of sums up the gravity of the situation which needs immediate time bound planning and monitoring. But with the current government’s fate hanging mid way it is impossible to predict the way ahead at the moment.