Education is the most effective tool and medium for human development. Education changes the mindset through a continuous process involving, research, experiment and innovation. Without such practices a nation cannot expect the future citizens of its country to be informed and creative.
“Education is a must thing” quoted modern political activist Malala Yousafzai. This quotes further justifies Aristotle’s words, “The educated differ from the Uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.” These two quotes show the importance of education in everybody’s life. According to the Indian Sages, the aim of education is second birth.
We are born into the world of nature and necessity, we must be reborn into the world of spirit and freedom. This significance gave rise to Right To Education. The Right To Education is a Fundamental Right and is accorded the same legal status as the right to life as provided by Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 is “An act to provide for free and compulsory education to all children of the age 6 to 14 years”.
The right of children to free and compulsory education came into force from 1st April, 2010. According to the Act, every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years will be provided 8 years of elementary education in an age appropriate classroom in the vicinity of his/her neighbourhood.
According to the Act, any cost that prevents a child from accessing school will be borne by the state which shall have the responsibility of enrolling the child as well as ensuring completion of 8 years of schooling. No child shall be denied admission for want of documents; or shall be turned away if the admission cycle in the school is over and no child shall be asked to take an admission test.
This would apply to all schools, private or even Navodaya schools. The act restricts schools to claim special category status because it indulges in screening procedures at the elementary level. Moreover, if the number of children applying to a school exceeds the available seats, an open lottery system shall be used to fill the seats. This applies to all categories of schools.
Children with disabilities will also be educated in the mainstream schools. Section (10) of the Act makes it the duty of the parents to ensure that their children go to schools, without prescribing any punishment. Special provisions are laid for children not admitted to school or who have not completed elementary education; a child so admitted to elementary education will be entitled to completion of elementary education even after 14 years.
“Tens of millions of children will benefit from this initiative ensuring quality education with equity,” said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF representative of India. This right will propel India to greater heights of prosperity and productivity. However, for child labour and street children, the government would have to ensure that they are not compelled to work and schools are provided to them, along with residential facilities to provide them with an appropriate environment to enable them to continue their education.
This means parents and communities who traditionally forbid their adolescent girls from going to school or indulge in child marriage would have to be persuaded, or the child marriages act would need to be invoked against them.
On the basis of the Act, no school, governmental or private, can detain, fail or expel any child at the elementary stage. On 7th April, 2010, the Delhi High Court gave a verdict against St. Xavier’s School, Delhi, which had to take back all the children they had declared failed and expelled from the school. Moreover, all private schools shall be required to enroll children from the weaker sections and disadvantaged communities in their class to the extent of 25% of their enrolment, by simple random selection. While no seats in this quota can be left vacant, these children will be treated at par with all the other children in the school and would be subsidised by the state at the rate of average per learner costs in the government schools.
The act also prescribes norms and standards for all schools and any school that does not fulfil these standards within 3 years will not be allowed to function. All private schools will have to apply for recognition, failing which they will be penalised up to rupees 1 lakh and if they still continue to function, they will be liable to pay rupees 10,000 per day as fine. In addition, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has been mandated to monitor the implementation of this right.
It has been observed that the Hindi speaking states — Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have been the most half-hearted when it comes to implementation of the RTE (Right To Education) Act, despite the fact that most of out-of-school children (upto 67%) are from these states. Regarding this Indian Constitution clearly says that it cannot be left to the states to provide people their rights. It is clearly not lack of funds that is a hindrance in the implementation of RTE Act, but lack of intent and political will. To effectively implement the RTE Act, the Human Resource Development Ministry, Labour Ministry, Women and Child Development Ministry, Panchayati Raj Ministry and Rural Development Ministry have to work together to reach towards this goal. School management committees should take it upon themselves to spread awareness about the Act at the community level so that people are encouraged to send their children to school.
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”, said Nelson Mandela. So it is important for the country to nurture their children and young talent with the right education, so that India emerges as a strong and prosperous country.