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Deccan Herald » Edit Page » Detailed Story
IN PERSPECTIVE
Education: an empty dream
By Sabu Joseph & Maitreyee Kumar
Without the education bill underprivileged children will be affected
 

The much awaited Right to Education Bill is buried on the pretext that the centre doesn't have enough money in its coffers. But the glaring truth is that the government and our parliamentarians don't want to make the bill a reality. So the applause at the time of the bill's inception was shortlived as the centre has washed its hands off providing equitable quality elementary education to millions of children and their community.

The tall promise made in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of allocating 6 per cent of GDP for education remains only on paper as breaking any promise related to public education is the easiest one.

Why this reluctance on the Government's part to spend money on the most sustainable vehicle of social change? The reasons range from national to international factors. The private education lobbies along with the civil servants who are beneficiaries of the "Private School" system at the national level and the WTO and GATT provisions at the international level contribute to this debacle.

Private players

When GATT sees education as a marketable service, all its member countries are expected to open it for private players. Also, IMF and the World Bank force governments to cut public spending and it automatically starts with the education sector. The Government has abdicated its responsibility and put the onus on to state governments, four years after the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act in 2002, without guaranteeing them adequate funds. This move will undermine the effort of civil society organisations and communities which fought for the Right to Education Bill. The Government would provide 50% funds under 11th Plan for elementary education to states that would make amendments. Those that don't will receive only 25% of the funding. This requires amending existing state laws or enacting laws at state level. So this move by Centre has not taken the Bill anywhere.

Going by the state governments' present-day priorities and their politics, it is going to be a long journey that may eventually result in the natural death of the Bill. In 1994, the centre asked the states to make education a must for the children aged between 6-14 and the states reported back to the centre stating that they didn't have funds. The states would in all probability adopt the same route even now!

Protests

The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) that drafted the bill recommended 25% of reservation for poor children in private schools to create an egalitarian society. While reservations in higher education draw media attention and protests, the private school lobby along with the centre has killed the RTE bill without even caring to put it for legislative bodies' approval and unilaterally undermined the efforts of CABE which comprises eminent educationalists and social activists. By rejecting the CABE recommendation, the government is legitimising inequality in education — one for the "Rich" and another for the "Poor" and this contradicts Article 28 of United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), to which India is a signatory.

This move will take away the Fundamental Right to Education of underprivileged children and make Government Schools redundant which is the only option of millions of our children.

This will pave the way for increase in Child Labour and trafficking apart from a wide range of social issues.

The only solution is to re-look at the Kothari Commission recommendation of a Common School System with ownership control by the local bodies under the 73rd and 74th amendment of the Constitution.

As citizens who pay two percent tax on education that amounts to Rs 7000 cr annually, we have the right to question this undemocratic act and stand for the legitimate right of the children to have Equitable and Quality Education.

(The writers are from Dream School Foundation, an NGO working towards equity and quality in Education.)

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