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Prof Haragopal -Saffronisation of Education and History in India





Mumbai , – Prof. G Haragopal, from  Professor with the Centre for Human Rights (School Of Social Sciences),  University of Hyderabad addressed the public meeting  organised Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) Mumbai , titled  “Acche Din? One Year After” on Saturday

2th May at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, Mumbai.

The Rashtriya Swamayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has never deviated from its core ideology of forming a ‘Hindu Rastra, it is the systematic attempt of rewriting history with saffron ink through its vast network of educational institutes like vidya bharti, one of the largest chain of private schools in India, catering mainly to lower middle class, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) which specialises in hostels for adivasi children along with other activities and Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, which runs single pre-school teacher centres, where students are taught basic reading and writing of Sanskrit and Sanskrit behaviours, is a clear indicator of RSS’s slow but deliberate attempt of “saffronising” the education system of the country. And in the process, feeding large number of young brains with their core ideology of Hindutva.

With these organisations at the helm of affairs, the rabid distortions in historical texts and the influence on young minds under such ideology is capable of communalising the situation in no time and flaring up of sentiments in the name of patriotism and nationalism, and creating fundamentalists and extremists out of the innocent young children, who are constantly fed with an ideology of superiority of one sect and demonising of another.


Prof Haragopal  urged the civil society and the activists to resist the communalisation of education and also focus on the implementation of the right to education and take part in the all India campaign on these issues.

Asserting the secular fabric of India, he underscored that  education is a conscience of a nation and that it must respond to social ‘needs’ and not ‘wants’, Prof. Haragopal stressed on the need for education that can train the younger generation to respect all the facets of diversity of the country.



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Private Schools vs. Caste Discrimination

Nearly 30% of children in India (ages 6-14) attend private schools and in some states and many urban regions a majority of the students attend private schools. Compared to the government schools, private schools perform modestly better on measures of learning (Muraldiharan and Sundararaman 2013Tabarrok 2011) and much better on cost-efficiency. Moreover, even though the private schools are low cost and mostly serve very poor students they also have better facilities such as electricity, toilets, blackboards, desks, drinking water etc. than the government schools (e.g. here and here).

In an op-ed Vipin Veetil and Akshaya Vijayalakshmi argue that the private schools may also reduce caste discrimination:

It’s no secret that government schools in India are of poor quality. Yet few know that they are also breeding grounds for caste-based discrimination, with lower-caste students in government schools often asked to sit separately in the classroom, insulted in front of their peers and even forced to clean toilets. This despite the fact that caste discrimination is illegal in India.

…Government-school teachers aren’t necessarily more prejudiced than their private-school counterparts. But private-school teachers find it more costly to discriminate. In a survey of over 5,000 children, academic researchers James Tooley and Pauline Dixon found that students in private schools felt more respected by their teachers than children in government schools.

Caste discrimination in the government schools is also one of the reasons why the private schools focus on teaching English. Among the Dalits, English is understood as the language of liberation not just because it offers greater job prospects but even more because Hindi, Sanskrit and the regional languages are burdened by and interwoven with a history of Dalit oppression. As one Dalit put it“No one knows how to curse me as well as in Tamil.”

– See more at:

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MDG Report 2014: India among worst performers in poverty reduction, maternal death and sanitation

Author(s): Moushumi Sharma 
Date:Jul 9, 2014

Report shows good progress in areas like poverty alleviation and access to clean water and controlling diseases like TB, Malaria

imageSome MDG targets, such as increasing access to sanitation and reducing child and maternal mortality are unlikely to be met before the deadline

The United Nations (UN) released this week the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report, 2014. The report, launched by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, says that many of the development goals have been met or are within reach by 2015.

The report is the latest finding to assess the regional progress towards the eight developmental goals that the UN targets to achieve by 2015, including eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and women empowerment, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

Progress slow but target possible
Ban Ki-moon has lauded the progress so far, saying that many global MDG targets have already been met. The report states that extreme poverty in the world has reduced by half; over 2.3 million people gained access to clean drinking water between 1990 and 2012; gender disparities in school enrollment in developing nations have been eliminated to a large extent; and political participation of women has increased. The report maintains that if the current trend of progress continues, the world might surpass MDG targets on malaria, tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment. An estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria could be averted between 2000 and 2012 due to substantial expansion of malaria intervention programmes, while intensive efforts to fight tuberculosis have saved an estimated 22 million lives worldwide since 1995.

But it is too soon to celebrate. According to the report, some MDG targets, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation, are unlikely to be met before the deadline.

India’s dismal performance
India’s progress has been below the mark on the parameters of poverty, child and maternal mortality and access to improved sanitation. In 2010, one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion extremely poor (32.9 per cent) lived in India alone. The poverty figures for the same year for Nigeria and Bangladesh, two countries less developed than India, were 8.9 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively.

A recent study by an international non-profit ranked India 137th among 178 countries when it comes to maternal and child health, categorising the country among the worst performers (Read: India among worst performers in maternal and child health). The UN report states that India had the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children in the country dying before age five. This is shameful when one takes into account notable reductions in the under-five mortality rate since 1990 and particularly since 2000 in low-income countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

While the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) dropped by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2013, India still accounts for 17 per cent of maternal deaths. India’s MMR target for 2015 is to bring down maternal mortality to less than 109 deaths per 100,000 live births. But only three states—Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra—have so far been successful in reaching this target (Read: India nowhere near millennium goal for maternal mortality.

The UN report further states that MMR in developing regions—230 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013—was 14 times higher than that of developed regions, which recorded only 16 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the same year. It maintains that the best possible way of reducing neonatal mortality is through greater investment in maternal care during the first 24 hours after birth.

Scourge of open defecation
Between 1990 and 2012, two billion people worldwide gained access to improved sanitation, but a billion people still defecate in the open. A vast majority of the world’s population—82 per cent—resorting to open defecation live in middle-income, populous countries like India and Nigeria.

Official data on open defecation in India will put any country to shame. The country has the world’s largest population that defecates in the open. (Read: Mission possible. According to data released by the National Sample Survey Office in December 2013, 59.4 per cent of the rural population resorted to open defecation. 2011 Census figures put the number of rural houses without toilets at 113 million.

To make matters worse for the country’s reputation, a recent study conducted by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, Uttar Pradesh, claims that in 40 per cent of rural households in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, which have a functional toilet, at least one member chose to defecate in the open. At least 30 per cent of the world’s population, which defecates in the open, live in these five states alone (Read: Despite having toilets at home, many in rural India choose to defecate in open.

Hope for the future
Presenting the report, Ban Ki-moon said that the world is “at a historic juncture, with several milestones before us”. He underscored that the report makes clear “the MDGs have helped unite, inspire and transform…and the combined action of governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector can make a difference”. “Our efforts to achieve the MDGs are critical to building a solid foundation for development beyond 2015. At the same time, we must aim for a strong successor framework to attend to unfinished business and address areas not covered by the eight MDGs,” the UN chief said.

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India Education sector’s link to black money



Speculations are that a big part of this money goes to politicians and bureaucracy as a large number of institutes are owned, controlled and managed by politicians and business houses

There was a time, not long ago, when education was a noble profession. Creating a school or college was a pious act. There was neither capitation fee, nor donations, nor back-breaking fees. A pupil taking private tuitions was considered as a failure of teacher.

But, today education has become big business. Following is standard norm of upfront payment also called donation or capitation fee, at various stages of education –

  1. Play Group / Pre-KG – Rs. 36000-60000 per year
  2. Junior KG – Donation in range of Rs. 30000-5 Lakhs with fee in the range of 2000-10000 per month.
  3. 11th – Donation in range of Rs. 2-5 Lakhs. Fee excluded
  4. Under graduation admission (Fee excluded) –
    1. Medical (MBBS) – Rs. 30-60 Lakhs as donation
    2. Medical (BAMS and others) – Rs. 3-8 Lakhs as donation
    3. Engineering – Rs. 2-6 Lakhs as donation
    4. Management (BMS) – Rs. 2-10 Lakhs as donation
  5. PG Admission (Fee excluded) –
    1. Medical – Rs. 1-4 crores as donation
    2. Management – Rs. 10-20 Lakhs as donation

Cost to Society
Let us try to calculate the total cost of the above donations to the society.


1. At kids admission stage –

The phenomenon of donation at kid’s admission stage is prevalent in cities (Metro / Urban areas). Parents, who can afford or manage somehow, want to admit their children to so-called convent or English medium or higher quality schools. The shortage of these types of educational institutions compared to demand, screates a skewed equation in favour of the institutes.
India’s population is about 125 crores. Birth rate is 20.24 (after providing infant mortality rate of 50/1000 births) per 1000 in 2013. This means addition of 2.5 crores of children per year.
About 30% population in India lives is Metro/Urban areas. This means 75 lakh babies per year in metro / urban centers. An estimated 80% of the population of metro / urban centers is less-than middle class and BPL families. Their children go to municipal or government aided schools, where this menace of donation does not exist. This donation / capitation fee is prevalent in metro and urban areas among financially middle class and higher income families, which form about 20% of population.
This 20% urban kid’s population means 15 lakh babies per year. The going donation rate in Mumbai is Rs30000 to Rs5 Lakhs. In Delhi NCR also, the rate is similar. If we take an estimated median as Rs1,00,000, the amount of donation comes to Rs15000 crores per year. Almost all of this money is unaccounted or black money.
These figures look big, but on revalidating assumptions, They may even turn out to be on the conservative side.


2. Admission to 11th, after passing 10th –

A college of choice costs Rs2-5 lakh. In Mumbai Metro Region (MMR), there are 172,000 seats. Most get alloted as per the merit list. There is some management discretion though, it is said that about 15% seats are allotted either to less than cut-off marks or where students want a specific college, which is out of the management/minority quota. In this way about 25000 seats are allotted with payment of capitation fee or unaccounted donation. The going rate is between Rs2 lakh and Rs5 lakh, depending upon the college. If we take the lower figure of Rs2 lakh, for 25,000 students the amount is Rs500 crore. This is only in MMR. If the same is mapped to only urban areas, which has 20 times the population of MMR, the amount becomes Rs10,000 crore per year.
3. Admission to Under graduation courses –

Medical (only MBBS) – There are about 50,000 seats all over India. About 60% are filled through various entrance exams like CET etc. 40% of the seats are filled by management quote (called MQ) and NRI quota. This is done all over India in over 300 medical colleges. At the average rate of Rs. 45 lakhs per seat, the unaccounted money in the form of capitation fee for 20000 students becomes Rs. 9000 crores per year. This is only for MBBS. There are other courses, where capitation fees at lower amounts are prevalent.

These are: MD/ MS, BDS, MDS, BHMS, BAMS, BPT, MPT, D Pharm, B Pharm, M Pharm, B.Sc, PBC, GNM, M.Sc (Nursing). It is difficult to estimate the number of eats in these courses, but the capitation/management quota fees vary from Rs3 lakh to Rs8 lakh.
Engineering – There are 14.73 lakh engineering seats in over 3,345 engineering colleges in India. AP has 3.40 lakhs, TN has 2.36 lakhs, Maharashtra has 1.46 lakhs and UP has 1.36 lakh seats. About 10% go unfilled. About 20-25% seats are filled with management and NRI quotas at a rate of Rs2 lakh to Rs6 lakh, depending upon state, location and reputation of college. If we take a conservative average of Rs3 lakh / seat for over 3 lakh seats, the amount of capitation fee comes out to Rs9,000 crore per year.


Management (undergraduate level, BMS/BBA) – There are approx 1,50,000 BMS / BBA seats in India. About 20% are allowed for Management Quota and NRI quota. These seats are sold for Rs2 lakh to Rs10 lakh each. Thus, for 30000 seats at a minimum rate of Rs2 lakh per seat, the money generated is Rs600 crore.
4. Admission to professional PG courses –

Medical (MD /MS) – Total 11,000 seats are available in 300+ medical colleges. 50% (5,544 for 2014) are reserved for All India Quota (AIPGMEE). 25% for state quota and rest are Management and other Quota. About 2,800 seats are sold in the range between Rs1 crore and Rs4 crore. It is an open secret that seats of the state quota are also sold by political interests. Let us just consider these 2,800 seats. Even at a minimum of Rs1 crore, the total unaccounted money is Rs2,800 crores.


Management (MBA/PGBDM/etc.) – There are about 2,00,000 MBA seats offered by over 2,000 colleges in India. About 80% of these seats are from not so popular colleges and most of the students are unemployable after the course or the seats go vacant. Still, a fee of Rs2-3 lakh per year is charged. Out of the remaining 40,000 seats, 50% are offered by IIMs and other sarkari or comparable institutes, where there is no donation but the fee is high. The balance 20,000 seats are sold for Rs8-20 lakh. The director of one institute was raided thrice and every time money was recovered, but in a few days, the activity resumed again. This generates about Rs2000 crores even at a rate of Rs10 lakhs per seat.
The total sum calculated till now, only for capitation fee or donation per year becomes –


Stage of education Rs
Junior KG 15000 crores
11th 10000 crores
MBBS 9000 crores
BE / BTech 9000 crores
BMS / BBA 600 crores
PG – Medical 2800 crores
PG – Management 2000 crores
Total of above 48400 crores


This is equal to approximately 0.8% of Indian GDP and 73.5% of the total budget allocation to HRD ministry for 2013-14. Total budget for HRD ministry for 2013-14 was Rs65,867 crore.
There are other courses like education, para-medical, hotel management, etc. where capitation fee is charged, which are not considered above.


Where does this money go?
Nobody officially knows where this money goes. In fact, officially this money does not even exist. This money is what is usually termed, Black Money. Speculations are that a big part of this money goes to politicians and bureaucracy as a large number of institutes are owned, controlled and managed by politicians and business houses. Discreet enquiries reveal that a part of this money may be stashed away abroad, a part may be used for elections, some part may be used to fund and sustain real estate activities.


In the next part of this two part study on the ills and effects of black money, we will see the effects this black money has on Indian society and economy.

Read mor ehere-

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India: Implement UN Recommendations on Children

Armed Groups Target Schools
JUNE 20, 2014
  • Schoolchildren sit in a makeshift classroom in the courtyard of the Birhni Middle School. The school was bombed by Maoist guerillas on December 27, 2009. Maoist guerillas have been responsible for several attacks on public schools and other government buildings in this district, harming access to education to thousands of children. Birhni, Aurangabad district, Bihar State


    © 2010 Moises Saman/Magnum Photos for Human Rights Watch
“Children from India’s poorest and most marginalized communities are ending up on the front lines as combatants, or because their schools are bombed by armed groups. The UN has laid out a series of steps that the government should take to protect these children better.”
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch

India should carry out the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to improve protection for children affected by armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said today. The Child Rights Committee made its recommendations to India public on June 19, 2014, in Geneva.

Non-state armed groups should halt their recruitment and use of children and attacks on schools, Human Rights Watch said.

“Children from India’s poorest and most marginalized communities are ending up on the front lines as combatants, or because their schools are bombed by armed groups,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The UN has laid out a series of steps that the government should take to protect these children better.”

The Child Rights Committee stated that it was “deeply concerned” about opposition Maoist forces in central India as well as armed groups in the northeast, Jammu, and Kashmir recruiting and using anyone under 18 in hostilities. Human Rights Watch has previously documented Maoist forces’ use of children as young as 12 in armed operations. Human Rights Watch has also documented unlawful Maoist attacks on schools.

The committee urged India to promptly enact legislation that criminalizes the recruitment and use of anyone under 18 in hostilities by non-state armed groups. It also said India should take all necessary measures to prevent and eliminate the root causes of forced recruitment of children from poor and marginalized segments of society by non-state armed groups. Unlawful attacks on schools should be promptly investigated, and those responsible should be prosecuted and punished, the committee said.

The Child Rights Committee also expressed concern about government armed forces occupying schools in Maoist-affected areas, despite Supreme Court rulings prohibiting the practice. The committee said that India should “take all necessary measures to prevent the occupation and use of … places with a significant presence of children, such as schools, in line with international humanitarian law, expedite the vacation of schools as appropriate and take concrete measures to ensure that cases of unlawful … occupation of schools are promptly investigated, and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.”

Although security forces’ occupation and use of schools has declined since 2010, when Human Rights Watch documented the occupation of at least 129 schools, instances of dangerous dual use of schools continue, placing students and teachers potentially in the line of fire and harming children’s right to education.

video released by Human Rights Watch and the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack calls for the end of the military use of schools around the world. The video includes an account from an Indian child concerned about the mistreatment of girls by security forces occupying her school. It also features an Indian teacher amid the rubble of his school, which was attacked by Maoist forces following its use by government security forces.

“The Indian government should finally and fully withdraw its security forces from schools,” Ganguly said. “India’s children are entitled to safe schools and safe childhoods.”

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India – Right to health if implemented, would be a game-changer

The Congress party‘s suggested right to health, if implemented, would be a game-changer

Nitin Desai  

 Last Updated at 21:50 IST

This is the season for party manifestos with their vague and quite unexciting promises. But in this sea of platitudes, sometimes something stands out that is worth talking about, because, if implemented, it would be a game-changer. For me this is the reported inclusion of the right to health in theCongress party’s manifesto.

It is well known that health status in India is below what can be expected at our level of income. It is a matter of shame that, globally, India accounts for one-third of the deaths of pregnant women and about a quarter of child deaths. Childmortality has declined, but our infant mortality rate, at 56 per 1,000, is significantly higher than that for Bangladesh, a much poorer country.

The government has a plethora of schemes to promote better health. However, the reality is that most health care in India is privately funded. In the aggregate, India spends 4.1 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care. But, according to a study by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, public expenditure on health care is 1.5 per cent if we include water supply and sanitation, 1.1 per cent if we exclude it, and even less than that if we exclude the health care expenditure of departmental enterprises such as the Indian Railways and defence.

This is what has to change to at least three per cent of GDP so that effective and affordable universal coverage and healthinsurance can be provided to all Indians.

The impact of such an intervention on poverty levels could be substantial. Catastrophic health expenditures (CHE) that exceed 40 per cent of non-subsistence consumption or 10 per cent of total consumption expenditure are a major – possibly the principal – source of vulnerability for families near or below the poverty line. According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) survey, out-of-pocket health expenditures amounted to an average of 10 per cent of total household expenditure and 22 per cent of non-subsistence spending in India. Almost 24 per cent of households spent either equal to or more than their capacity to pay (non-subsistence spending) on health care services; consequently, they had to forego their basic subsistence consumption. This proportion is 35 per cent among poor households. These numbers do not include the cost of travelling to urban areas for health care or the loss of earnings. If one looks at the composition of expenditure, 60 to 70 per cent is spent on medicines and a little over 20 per cent on in-patient or out-patient services.

The stress on a family’s standard of living is most acute when a major illness strikes a family member. A survey in Kerala of heart-attack patients showed that 84 per cent faced catastrophic health expenditures. The coping strategies included loans and dipping into savings. But, according to the study, in order to cope, children discontinued their education, got transferred from private schools to free government schools and families moved out of expensive rental accommodation to cheaper ones – or even moved in with willing relatives to cut expenditure.

Clearly, a safety net is required, and the public sector has to step in not just as a payer of costs but also as a provider. But the reason for public intervention as payer or provider must be clearly articulated.

The case for public intervention when there are large externalities, as with water, sanitation, waste management or disease vector control, are obvious and must be supported through the budgets of the local authorities that have primary responsibility for this. A closely related area is the control of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. The case for pubic intervention here is also the benefit to society at large of a reduction in the pool of infection.

The case for public intervention in mother and child care is that it is a very cost-effective way of reducing future burdens on the health system. One could also argue that a healthy childhood has major benefits in other areas like education. Many of the interventions here, such as immunisation, also have external benefits in the form of reduced pools of infection.

Effective public delivery systems in these three areas will help greatly in reducing the burden of illness in poor families who are more exposed to poor environmental conditions, more vulnerable to infection and are least likely to seek or afford the interventions required during pregnancy and early childhood.

That brings us to the protection required when a family is affected by some non-communicable disease or a severe accident. The answer here lies in a combination of public provision and health insurance to allow people to pay for private health care. Public provision through health centres is required because the private sector will not deliver health services in remote or impoverished areas. However, in many areas, the private sector exists, and access to its services can be improved through a system of universal health insurance. The role of the government here would be to set standards, negotiate fair rates with providers and subsidise the cost of insurance for poor households.

One should proceed carefully with insurance, since the scope for malfeasance is large when such a huge proportion of expenditure is on medicines and out-patient services. Perhaps one can begin with insurance that covers hospitalisation, and also hospital and domiciliary treatment for serious illnesses whose cost of treatment is high enough to threaten living standards of the median household. The system can be gradually extended by folding in existing schemes such as the Central Government Health Scheme and by encouraging other employers to do the same.

Universal and affordable access to quality health care will require many more doctors and nurses and a willingness to serve in remote and impoverished areas. India has around 2.5 million doctors, dentists and nurses – which is below the WHO’s critical level of 2.28 per 1,000. Over the past 20 years, most of the expansion in medical education has taken place in the private sector, which accounts for two-thirds of the new medical colleges and almost all dental colleges. They charge high fees and often take substantial capitation fees. Those who pay these fees will not work in public facilities. Perhaps the answer may lie in scholarships tied to a period of service in the public sector.

The right to health is fundamental, since it enables an individual to enjoy all the other rights – for example, education, employment and so on. That is why, if implemented, it can be a game-changer.

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#India – Brave Girl battles her own child marriage #mustread

The one who got away


Akila at her college in Dharmapuri , Tamil Nadu. - Aditi Bhaduri

Akila at her college in Dharmapuri , Tamil Nadu. – Aditi Bhaduri

This brave teen took on her family to prevent her forced marriage.

She looks like any other teenager in one of the many villages in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu. Large eyes, oiled hair in neat plaits and simply dressed in a salwar kameez. Docile, even frightened, her looks however belie her spirit. For this braveheart single-handedly took on her mother and grandmother, landing them in prison for trying to force her to marry on the eve of her fifteenth birthday.

Abandoned by her father some years ago, Akila and her mother had moved into her maternal grandmother’s house.

Child marriage, usually without the girl’s consent, is rampant in rural India. According to Unicef, 47 per cent of girls are married by 18 years, and 18 per cent are married by 15. Besides mandating 18 as the marriageable age for girls, the government has also introduced the free education scheme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to discourage child marriage.

Akila’s mother worked as domestic help and was anxious to get the young girl married early to “safeguard” her against predatory men. She found a prospective groom and fixed the match. Caught completely unawares, Akila was horrified at the development and couldn’t for a moment bear the thought of leaving her home, village, school, and friends to go live with a stranger in a new place (a neighbouring village). In school she had known that teachers did not think well of girls who dropped out to marry. She was distressed at the thought of meeting that fate.

Luckily for her, she had the contact number of the district Block Development Officer, who had once visited her school. In desperation the spunky girl called him from a public telephone and narrated her ordeal. The conscientious officer immediately had a firm talk with her mother and warned that she could be punished for the forced marriage, which was a cognisable offence.

Completely taken aback and angered by this turn of events, the mother punished Akila by starving her for two days. But, thankfully, she did call off the marriage. Braving the chastisement, Akila heaved a sigh of relief and looked forward to continuing her studies.

When I met Akila some months ago on a mellow August day, she was no longer living at home with her mother. The principal of Don Bosco College in Dharmapuri had enrolled her in the college for a Bachelor’s degree and, together with Unicef’s Dharmapuri unit, found her accommodation in a girls’ hostel. Akila’s eyes wore a haunted look and, in a halting voice, she explained why she was now in a hostel and not at home.

Her joy at stopping the wedding had been short-lived. Within a few months, her mother overcame her fear of the authorities and once more embarked on finding a match for her young daughter. This time the older women took no chances. They stopped Akila from attending school. In a poignant twist of irony, Akila’s mother forgot her own marital misfortune and placed her faith in marriage for her daughter’s future wellbeing. Confined to the house, Akila was under constant watch.

Hannah Stephen, the child consultant with Unicef in Dharmapuri, is full of admiration for the girl’s remarkable tenacity. “Any girl in Akila’s place could have been expected to buckle under pressure and give in. But not Akila. Her only goal now was to somehow get away from the clutches of her mother and grandmother and continue her studies,” she explains. Akila missed school, she missed her teachers, her friends, the books and the learning. And one fine day, the universe conspired to help her.

Speaking haltingly, Akila tells me how she found her chance one day when her mother was away at work and her grandmother fell asleep. She sneaked out of the house, went to the public phone and called the same officer as earlier. Trembling and crying, she begged him to save her from her mother, repeating all the time that she just wanted to complete school. The kind-hearted officer once more came to her rescue.

This time the district administration dealt with Akila’s mother much more severely. The mother and grandmother were made to serve a prison sentence and also fined. Akila, too, preferred to stay away from her mother. The Unicef stepped in and its Integrated Child Protection Project helped Akila find place in a girl’s hostel. After passing out of school, she entered Don Bosco College, again with help from Unicef.

For the thousands of young girls in the country who routinely face the threat of disrupted education, forced marriage leading to aborted dreams and long-term subjugation, Akila is proving to be an inspiring role model, encouraging them to hang on to their dreams. As Hannah says, “Akila’s is an awe-inspiring story, and people here in Dharmapuri hail her as a heroine. She has set an important precedent against child marriage. And about the importance of education.”

The young woman now wants to become a teacher. And, hopefully, inspire her future students with her own life-altering story.

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Califia Feminists Took Education Out of Classrooms #womenrights

By Clark A. Pomerleau

WeNews guest author

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Launched in 1975, this group of Southern California feminists provided an alternative to mainstream academia’s attempts to tie feminism to university courses, focusing on community education, says Clark A. Pomerleau in this excerpt from “Califia Women.”


Mealtime at Califia Community.
Mealtime at Califia Community.


Credit: Courtesy of Betty Jetter, from Jetter’s collection

(WOMENSENEWS)– In response to entrenched inequalities in the post–World War II United States, Americans who supported gender equality built on political opportunities to find each other and create the country’s largest social movement.

Califia Women: Feminist Education Against Sexism, Classism, and Racism

By the 1970s, the proliferation of feminist organizations in Los Angeles was representative of the nation’s largest cities. Southern California feminists built on previous leftist education experiments to plan Califia Community in 1975. They drew on their social networks to bring women (and their children) together for a week or long weekend to learn from each other’s experiences, imagine and live an alternative to mainstream society, frame issues and organize to change the social order. For a decade of summers, Califia Community collective members facilitated conferences at campsites that alleviated mainstream pressures. The experience strengthened many women’s sense of shared culture and collective identity as “Califia women.”

Califia Community, which dissolved in 1987, is significant both in its own right and as a lens on its times. There has been little study of sustained grassroots feminist educational activism outside of the formation of college courses, even though the feminists who considered themselves “second wave” were dedicated to community-based consciousness raising, leadership training, organizing and revision of knowledge about women and gender. Grassroots groups that did community education tended to be significantly smaller than Califia Community and usually lasted fewer than five years, while women-only trade programs outside established vocational training venues have received scant scholarly attention.

Local-Level Dynamics

This book extends beyond most previous scholarship’s focus on the late 1960s and early 1970s, widely acknowledged leaders and the East Coast or Midwest. Scholarship on feminism of the 1960s to 1980s continues to need case studies that correct generalizations based on national overviews. Local-level dynamics confirm the multiplicity of competing views that feminists generated. Analyzing Califia Communityhelps to explain how New Left political and countercultural concerns influenced multi-issue feminists to blend tactics and goals in practices that they and later scholars have classified separately as “radical feminism,” “cultural feminism” and “separatism.”

Early participants at Califia had a range of gender expressions, sexual orientations, class backgrounds and races/ethnicities. Leaders built on that diversity and were especially concerned to advance antiracism and coalition work among races and ethnicities. Over their decade of conferences, Califia women developed their training on identity variation in ways that help clarify issues of feminists’ differing sexual orientations, classes and races.

The Califia experiment illustrates that 1970s feminists often mobilized women from overlapping social networks, built institutions with volunteer-based resources and sustained interest through strong social relationships, a shared sense of culture and the powerful emotions feminists felt when working together against injustices. Califia women adapted their priorities over time in response to their participation in feminist debates and to external pressures from right-wing organizing.

Going Beyond the Local

Looking at Califia in relation to nationwide developments reveals how feminists expanded their content and tactics, the strengths and weaknesses of lenses like identity politics and methods like consciousness-raising and consensus and ways in which members of the Right repeatedly attacked feminism. Many of these issues remain salient.

Across the United States, the number of participants in feminist groups and the movement’s visibility to mainstream Americans expanded enormously over the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Betty Brooks, who helped establish and run Califia Community, spoke to the ways in which many women felt swept up in a collective movement that altered the course of their lives. She said:

“There was a giant wave that was happening. And I guess I could say that that wave picked me up, although I was already in the ocean of women’s liberation. You know there’s two aspects of all this — women’s rights work and women’s liberation. And so I would say . . . that the most important thing that Califia did was really to raise women’s consciousness about their own individual liberation and the connection to the big ‘isms’ . . . which surround us like smog, which are sexism, racism and class. And it was that younger generation of women, the second wave of feminists, the people who had been in the political liberation movements of the ’60s, that focused in. . . . They walked out of mainstream politics and said that the ‘personal is political.’ So that Califia was picking that up. We were really the only radical group of people [in Southern California] trying to do that kind of work–to try to raise people’s consciousness in a different way than just keeping it in a small group. I mean, we really want to pick up the big stuff.”


— Betty Brooks (Califia Community founder and collective member, 1975–1983)

Excerpt from “Califia Women: Feminist Education Against Sexism, Classism, and Racism” by Clark A. Pomerleau (Copyright © 2013 by the University of Texas Press). Used by permission of the University of Texas Press. For more information visit .



Clark A. Pomerleau is an associate professor of history at the University of North Texas and also facilitates diversity training.

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The Mala Moment – Pakistan has produced a young woman who is remarkable to the world #mustread

She didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize. That’s totally ok. The award nomination is a milestone among many.

Malala Yousafzai, 16, is still proud and hopeful that she will move bigger mountains. So is mainstream Pakistan.

Without going into who got the coveted prize and why, we congratulate the OPCW for the important work they do, and set our gaze to the future.

I say mainstream Pakistan, because in my experience, this is the baseline that wants brave young women like Malala to give them hope and courage to face the rising tide of intolerance, extremism and militancy they face in the business of their daily lives. She represents that glittering core of unyielding resilience which has become the backbone of every citizen’s daily challenge in going to school, office or the marketplace in contemporary Pakistan.

So, before anything, let’s take pause to celebrate the fact that in the face of death-defying odds, Pakistan has produced a young woman who is remarkable to the world.

Yes, she is in danger of being over-packaged and objectified, but so what? At this level of global stardom, some PR-cum-development-world machinery has got to grind its mills. That’s not the point. Yes, there are hundreds of brave young Pakistanis being egged on to ask why their own trauma didn’t propel them to fame, but that’s not the point either. At all.

The point is Pakistan should please be allowed to revel in the fact that Malala has now become an icon of global championship for a girl’s right to an education, pointing us to the path of opportunity over despair. The point is that in this confusion and carping typical of our national psyche, let’s not forget that she is indeed a hero. She is a hero because in her person, she encapsulates so many debates, challenges and crises. She also personifies the leaps of faith needed, and the valour possible, to chart a way out of the fog of war we find ourselves in.

Most of us were silently, or openly, rooting for her victory. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis waited for the announcement from Norway, as did many others the world over. Television channels telescoped the breathless mix of pride and hope with which little girls in Mingora looked to Oslo, as did traders from Gujrat, fishermen from Pasni, fruit farmers in Gilgit, and homemakers from Karachi.

But there is another Pakistan that is rubbishing the nomination in two broad stripes.

One is the rightist that conflates Islam with the worst excesses of millenarian militancy and misogyny, demonising Malala as a handmaiden of satanic coalitions. This protagonist is no longer a marginal voice, lurking in the shadowed, layered protections of guns, cash and sweaty muscle. This is the barbarian now at our gates. This is the extremist who spews hate on the internet, manufacturing cyber shrouds on women’s bodies, which they fetishize. This is the militant who threatens people at mosques if they question sermons that valourize violence, in the name of religion that privileges peace above all. This is the terrorist that bears arms with the intent to kill, maim, kidnap and steal. They all hate Malala for fighting back, and what she stands for.

There is another, much more sophisticated derider of Malala.

This is the postmodern leftist, who hand-wrings at the poor young girl’s commodification by the ‘west’. Mostly, this is not a Malala-phobe per se, who resents her identity as a poster child for resistance to coercion, but quibbles because she has become a brand bigger than her authentic, grassroots self. But their reductive, often well-meaning, criticism misses the simple point that even Brand Malala fills a deep vacuum in Pakistan. It also ignores the volume of damage their objecting voices do in a polarized, fraught environment where the air is taut with the gun-smoke of terror and the wild-eyed certainties of suicide missions. They ignore the need for clarity against an enemy which is contemptuous of doubt, or its philosophical groundings.

So please, let us see the Malala Moment for all the right stories it tells about us. Let us in fact, seize this moment in all that it embodies. Let us come together, to build momentum to ensure that it doesn’t pass.

The writer is Chair of Jinnah Institute and ex-Ambassador to Washington and former Federal Minister, Pakistan.

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#India – Right to Education- Elementary failure #mustread #mustshare

Sep 30, 2013 | downtoearth

Since the Right To Education Act came into force on April 1, 2010, India has been witnessing an experiment that involves parents in enforcing a fundamental right—right to elementary education. The devolution experiment rivals the country’s Panchayati raj in outreach. After three years, the less-talked-about flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre seems to be the least performing one as well. By March 31 this year, not a single child in the country should have been out of school and parents should have been managing the affairs of neighbourhood schools, scripting a new era in education. Down To Earth reporters travel to four states and analyse if the Central government has managed to achieve its goals for which it is legally responsible

Christopher MacsurakPhoto: Christopher Macsurak

This is unusual for a school in the ravines of Chambal, still dreaded for bandits. A primary school that has 35 students, many of them girls, opens and closes on time. Teachers are regular and children get nutritious mid-day meals, without fail. The school in Himmatpura village in Uttar Pradesh’s Jalan district is a rare example of communities taking charge of education.

imageThe village did not have a school until 2005. “We used to send our children to a school in neighbouring village, dominated by upper caste communities. There the teachers would often refuse to teach our children because we belong to lower castes,” recalls Siyaram Dohari, a resident of Himmatpura. She and other residents of the village had fought hard to get the school in their village, but it was barely functioning.

In 2010, the government adopted the Right To Education (RTE) Act, which emphasises on the importance of community in ensuring education to children. Himmatpura residents used the Act as a tool to take charge of the school. Parents and other residents united to form a School Management Committee (SMC) as per the RTE guidelines to monitor the school functioning and ensure quality education.

imageThe village school has opened new doors for girl children who had slim chances of getting education,” says Abhilasha Kumari. She is the first student from Himmatpura to have completed higher secondary education and is pursuing a college degree. After returning from college, she helps her father, an SMC member, in day-to-day management of the school. Devi aspires to be a teacher. The SMC, determined to churn out many more like Devi, is proactive in ensuring quality education to children. Deep Kumari, a 45-year-old SMC member, says, “The SMC locked out the school twice last year when teachers did not come on time.” Last year the committee forced the school authorities to use the unspent school fund of Rs 5,000 to give the school a new coat of colour. Though not widely known, this is for the first time that communities are enforcing a fundamental right in the country. In 2002, the Constitution was amended to make elementary education a fundamental right. To protect the right, Parliament enacted the Rights of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or the RTE Act in August 2009, which came into force on April 1, 2010.

The Act, for the first time, makes the government legally responsible to ensure elementary education (up to class VIII) to children between six and 14 years. The Act guarantees free and compulsory education in neighbourhood schools within three years of enactment. In private schools, it provides 25 per cent reservation for students from economically weaker sections of society. Under the Act, the government must ensure proper infrastructure, meet the prescribed teacher-pupil ratio and student-class ratio by 2013. It should also train all teachers to adhere to the prescribed quality by 2015 (see ‘Right To Education Goals’).

A unique feature of the Act is to ensure elementary education through community participation. It calls for setting up SMCs by roping in parents, teachers and elected representatives who will supervise the functioning of the school, decide the number of teachers required and ensure quality education. It has a dedicated budget to do the job. Yamini Aiyar, head of Delhi non-profit Accountability Initiative, who has been tracking implementation of RTE, says, “SMC makes education planning evolve from bottom to top.”

Dilemma of an all-women village

Kalouthara village in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district has no men. Displaced by a dam some 30 years ago, they have all migrated in search of livelihood, leaving behind women and children. It is an assumed rule that a School Management Committee (SMC) cannot be formed without men and hence, Kalouthara primary school does not have an SMC.

Ten-year-old Rakhi Kumari wants to study, but teachers do not come to the school to teach. “There are just two teachers who leave soon after the mid-day meal is served,” she says. Ramabati Devi, a ward member from the village, admits that residents have no say in the functioning of the school. Meanwhile, Rakhi is worried that her dream of becoming a police officer will shatter as the village does not have an upper primary school. Under the Right To Education Act, the government should build a school for her within one kilometre of the village.

The RTE Act is the third flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance-II (UPA-II) at the Centre that has codified basic entitlements like employment and information. But unlike the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Right To Information Act, RTE deals with a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. The adoption of RTE is the culmination of the demand for free and compulsory elementary education since the pre- Independence era. Is this grand devolution experiment in ensuring education through communities working?

Bleak scenario

The success story of Himmatpura fizzles out the moment one steps out of the village (see ‘Dilemma of an all-women village’).

imageIn nearby Asahana village, Seema Devi says SMCs have no relevance. In 2011, following demands by Asahana residents, the government upgraded the village primary school, but did not provide more teachers. Now there are only two teachers to manage eight classes. “How is this possible? Most of their time is spent in supervising mid-day meals,” says Seema, an SMC member of the school.

“We have written to the district authorities several times for providing teachers for upper primary classes but they are yet to respond. Most SMC members have stopped coming for meetings,” she adds. These days, she sends her 10-year-old daughter Muskan to a private school, some 10 km from her village. “The school bus charges Rs 300 a month while the school fee is Rs 100.”

This is the state of affairs in most places across the country where the nodal community body is being pushed into oblivion.

Take for instance Andhra Pradesh. It was the first state to have formulated rules for enforcing the right. But its initial enthusiasm did not last long. The state has 80,109 SMCs with 2.4 million members, covering all government schools. Under the state rules, an SMC includes elected parents’ representatives, a teacher nominated by block education officer, head teacher of the school and local elected members, and is led by an elected village head.

The committee is supposed to meet once in two months for reviewing school functioning. But that has not happened in the past two years because all local bodies in the state remained headless between August 2011 and August 2013 as elections did not take place due to reservation issues.

Community takes charge

For more than 10 years, residents of 56 villages in Amrabad block of Andhra Pradesh’s Mahabubnagar district have been demanding the government to appoint teachers in village schools, but to no avail. Of the 75 schools in the block, 14 have no teachers and 15 have only one. There are only 81 teachers against the requirement of 148. Several schools closed down due to lack of teachers. This year, in an attempt to meet criteria of the Right To Education Act, which calls for appointing qualified teachers, the government did away with Vidya volunteers (untrained tribal teachers who used to teach in many schools in the block). Residents of the block now want the government to scrap an order that says only tribal teachers be appointed in the Schedule Five block. Residents say the order violates children’s rights because there are 500 qualified non-tribal teachers in the block. Besides, the tribal population in Amrabad is now just 10 per cent, says P Venkateswarlu, former block panchayat member. “We want a fresh population survey,” he adds. As of now, right to education is a distant dream for Amrabad children.

Maharashtra’s education department claims that the state ranks among top five states with 91 per cent schools having SMCs. Experts say the figure is inflated. “One can see lists of SMC members displayed on notice boards at state government-run zilla parishad schools. Such lists are rare in municipal schools and missing in private schools as they discourage SMCs,” says Arundhati Chavan, president of Parents-Teachers Unity Forum (PTUF).

imageTribal-dominated Yavatmal district is one of the few places in Maharashtra where SMCs seem to have made an impact. “No child in the age group of six to 14 remains out of school now,” says a proud Sangita Atram, vice-president of SMC in Mulgawhan village of Zari Jamni block. Last year, SMC members of Kodpha Khindi village in the block demolished an under-constructed kitchen shed of the school, citing poor construction and asked the contractor to rebuild it under their supervision.

But lately they are facing alienation. SMC members allege teachers try to retain control over decision-making and implementation of infrastructure projects. The upper primary school of Jhari village lacks electricity, water, toilets and kitchen shed. “The building also is crumbling. Despite availability of funds, the headmistress has not undertaken any work because she does not want SMC to monitor construction,” alleges Shirpat Arke, former president of Jhari SMC.

SMCs that are strong and have received good training have made an impact in the school administration, says Yogini Dolke, who heads Yavatmal-based non-profit Srujan. But only three to four per cent SMCs are actually active, she adds.

“In our area SMCs were formed a year ago. Most members are not aware that they can actually intervene in the school functioning.” Dolke says capacity-building and awareness generation among SMCs are the key to ensure effective implementation of RTE (see ‘Community takes charge’).

District education officer of Yavatmal, Siddheswar Chandekar, says all SMCs receive training at the beginning of the school session, but this is not sufficient. “In backward areas, communities are not used to official work. They still cannot believe that the school in their village belongs to them,” Chandekar adds.

Objective lost

SMC was to involve parents in development and management of school and set up an accountability system. But so far, only 68 per cent of the country’s schools have constituted SMCs, according to a report by the District Information System for Education (DISE), set up by the government to track RTE implementation. There is a wide variation in state-level data, which ranges from five per cent in Maharashtra to 99 per cent in Himachal Pradesh.

Himmatpura primary school is supervised by school management committeeHimmatpura primary school is supervised by school management committee (Photo: Jitendra)

To do its job, SMCs get funds under three categories: school development, maintenance and teaching learning material. These grants account for two per cent of a school’s total budget but are crucial. A report by non-profit Accountability Initiative, called the PAISA report, shows schools do not receive the grants regularly. In 2011-12, only 74 per cent schools received all the three grants. This is an improvement over the previous year when 69 per cent schools received the grants. Besides, close to 30 per cent SMCs are yet to open a bank account to receive the fund.

Vague definition

“There is no school dropout in Yavatmal,” claims Siddheshwar Chandekar, the district education officer. But how true is his claim? The Right To Education (RTE) Act has provisions for school dropouts. The Act says such students must be identified and given exclusive tutorials and admitted back to age-appropriate classes. But it is a difficult task because the state’s education department is short-staffed. So, comes into play the logic of definition. The district has 3,000 “absentee” students. Absentees, Chandekar explains, are students who are not attending school but their names are registered in the school. A student is regarded a school dropout if he fails to turn up for months together. This definition lacks clarity, says Mohan Jadhav, who works on RTE under a Unicef programme. Schools use this vague definitions to cover up the dropout phenomenon. Once registered in a school, the name of the student is not struck off till parents officially remove her or transfer her to another school for fear of reduced enrolment numbers. Attendance figures are botched so that schools can continue receiving student maintenance costs, Jadhav explains. There are dropouts in villages where School Management Committees are not strong. But their names remain in school registers giving a false impression of high enrolment.

“Meager budget and inclusion of the collective decision of community are major challenges,” says Aiyar. The decision of SMCs is hardly accepted by the district level authority, which takes the final decision related to RTE. They often have pre-filled formats that hardly include SMC decisions, says Aiyar.

imageJohn Kurien, member of the Action for the Rights of the Child (ARC), an umbrella body of 25 non-profits across Maharashtra, says till RTE was implemented, the government’s approach towards education was “scheme-based” and not “rights-based”. “So the departments concerned are not only conceptually unprepared but also institutionally unprepared,” he adds.

Caught unprepared

The scope of RTE is gigantic. It covers some 1.4 million schools, 5.6 million teachers and 190 million children.

So far, only five per cent schools in the country meet RTE provisions. In strict legal terms, recognition to the rest 95 per cent schools should have been withdrawn. But this is not possible in a country that does not have enough schools to meet the demand. As per the latest Delivery Monitoring Unit report of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), about 20,000 habitations in the country do not have schools. Of these, 11,607 need primary schools. Most of these habitations are in poor states with high illiteracy rate, such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha.

The government’s grand aims of setting up schools in the neighbourhood and not leaving a single child out of school have fallen flat.

The PMO data shows that eight million children or 4.28 per cent of children in the age group of 6-14 are yet to be admitted to primary schools as required under RTE. On August 29, answering a question in Parliament, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Shashi Tharoor, said 2.2 million children of 6-14 age group were out of school. Though the DISE report shows that the enrolment has increased by 1.8 million in primary section and by 4.1 million in upper primary sections within a year of implementing RTE, it shows a striking trend. The enrolment in government primary schools has decreased by 2.4 million while it has increased by 3.6 million in private schools.

A school in Amrabad block in Andhra Pradesh. Most schools in the block do not have teachers, let alone furnitureA school in Amrabad block in Andhra Pradesh. Most schools in the block do not have teachers, let alone furniture (Photo: M Suchitra)

Non-profit Pratham’s Annual State of Education Report of 2012 also shows that the proportion of out-of-school children has increased from 3.3 per cent in 2011 to 3.6 per cent in 2012. That of girl children has increased from 5.2 per cent to 6 per cent. Going by the Act’s mandate, the government should have surveyed every habitation to look for children between six and 14 years who are out of school and ensure their admission in a neighbourhood school. If there was no school within a kilometre of the habitation, it should have opened one. But this requires heavy investment in infrastructure and training some one million teachers. The government was given three years for doing all this. Despite using the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), or total literacy campaign, as the tool to implement RTE, it seems to have missed all legally mandatory goals under the RTE Act. “No state can claim to have achieved criteria enlisted in the Act,” says Vinod Raina, member of the Central Advisory Board of Education, the highest advisory body for education in the country.

imageIn some areas, officials are fudging the number of enrolled students to meet the RTE criteria on paper (see ‘Vague definition’).

The second major challenge is to make available the massive amount of funds required to implement the programme. Implementation of the RTE Act for five years would require Rs 2.34 lakh crore. Of this Rs 24,000 crore comes as the Finance Commission’s allocation to state governments. The rest has to be shared between the Centre and state on 65:35 ratio (90:10 for north-eastern states). “This means the Centre should have contributed Rs 34,000 crore a year. It never happened,” says Raina. The Centre has allocated just Rs 27,258 crore for 2013-14.

State governments are no better. “Financing of children education has gone from bad to worse over the years, particularly in the last three years,” says Praveen Jha, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. The direct expenditure on child education is meager. According to the Centre for Policy Research, only 12 per cent of the overall education budget is spent on children. According to this report, barely half of India’s schools receive grants by the end of the first half of the financial year. During 2012-13, 54 per cent schools received their grants in November, thus, leading to erratic implementation of RTE.

The 2010 Anil Bordia Committee Report, which had estimated that Rs 1.7 trillion would be required for implementing RTE, indicated that states would have to double their shares for implementation of the RTE Act and committed salaries under SSA, the implementing vehicle of RTE. But it is imperative that the funds reach areas where they are needed most.

Left to god

Every morning seven-year-old Nisha Kumari stacks her four worn out books in a polythene bag and walks to a nearby temple. “The statue of Lord Hanuman always looks surprised with his eyes wide open,” says Nisha. She giggles at her own remark and starts reciting Hindi alphabets. A devotee enters the temple with lighted incense sticks and chants a religious hymn. Students stop reciting till she completes her prayer. The temple in Bihar’s Patna city is a government-run primary school, with 80 students on the roll. Since its establishment in 1955, classes are being held under the watchful eyes of god and humdrum of devotees. There are 40 such schools in Patna, running in temples, mosques, godowns and under trees since Independence. The government admits that 8,660 schools in Bihar are without buildings. Officials say the figure will rise in future. To meet the Right To Education Act provisions, the government is setting up hundreds of schools, but without infrastructure. Currently 58 per cent of the state’s 28 million children are going to schools. One can only imagine the situation when all children would go to schools.

imageConsider Bihar. In 2008, a year before the Act came into force, the issue of financing infrastructure for schools weighed so much on the Bihar government that the then principal secretary, education, Anjani Sinha, prepared a budget of Rs 28,000 crore—more than the state’s demand of Rs 20,000 crore to get special status tag—for implementing RTE in the state. The Centre rejected its plea. Now, to meet RTE goals, the government has opened schools everywhere but without any infrastructure, says Amardeep Sinha, principal secretary, education.

With limited budget, the state is now caught in the classic chicken and egg dilemma: whether it should first provide infrastructure to students or appoint trained teachers to offer quality education. Bihar needs to construct 575, 324 classrooms in nearly 70,238 schools. It also needs to appoint 168,000 teachers to meet the RTE criterion of one teacher for 30 pupils. But the state does not have enough institutions to train teachers. It has overhauled 52 teacher’s training institutes and set up four higher education training colleges, but they will take another 10 years to meet the faculty demand (see ‘Left to god’).

Teachers missing

Lack of trained teachers is the next big challenge for implementation of RTE. Section 23(2) of the Act says all teachers in elementary schools should be trained by 2015. As of now, one in every five teachers is not properly qualified. Though 83 per cent of government teachers are trained, 60 per cent of them are on contract basis, states the DISE report. Job insecurity often leads to poor teaching quality or the possibility of teachers quitting abruptly. “Insufficient compensation and job insecurity demoralises these young persons,” says J S Rajput, former director of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

A broken tube well at Jhari village school in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. Former president of the school management committee (SMC), Shripat Arke, alleges the headmistress does not want to install a new tube well because she does not want the SMC to monitor its constructionA broken tube well at Jhari village school in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. Former president of the school management committee (SMC), Shripat Arke, alleges the headmistress does not want to install a new tube well because she does not want the SMC to monitor its construction (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)

According to Shashi Tharoor’s answer in Parliament, states need to recruit about 600,000 teachers as has been envisioned by SSA. Add to this the number of headmasters needed. As per DISE data, 42 per cent of primary schools and 46 per cent of upper primary schools are without a headmaster. Though under RTE rules, schools with less than 150 enrolments do not qualify for a headmaster, experts criticise this provision.

Anil Sadgopal of the All India Forum for Right to Education says the provision is “illogical” because not all schools have this kind of enrolment. “A school without a leader does not ensure quality education,” says Aditya Natraj of Kaivalaya Education Foundation, a non-profit training teachers in various states.

imageAn evaluation of SSA by the Planning Commission in 2011 shows, teacher shortage has severely affected education in most states. It pointed out that the involvement of teachers in non-teaching works like census survey, election duties, household surveys and supervision of mid-day meals impacted teaching quality. RTE suffers from the same problems.

As per section 25 (2) of the RTE Act, no teacher should be deployed for non-educational purpose except for decennial population census, disaster relief and elections. But the number of days for which teachers remain involved in non-teaching activities has increased from 14 to 19 days between 2009-10 and 2011-12.

Can private players be saviours?

Amid widespread reports of RTE mess, the government is looking to private players for help. It has said that to meet the huge requirement of funds and manpower to implement RTE, the public-private-partnership (PPP) model must be adopted. Several corporate houses have adopted government schools under their corporate social responsibility in 11 states.

A school in Siwan district, Bihar. Without sufficient funds the state opened hundreds of schools to meet the Right To Education criteria, but few have proper infrastructureA school in Siwan district, Bihar. Without sufficient funds the state opened hundreds of schools to meet the Right To Education criteria, but few have proper infrastructure (Photo: Prashant Ravi)

“Instead of focusing on government schools that still educate majority of students, there is an unnecessary attention on private players as saviours,” says Shantanu Mishra of non-profit Smile Foundation. The RTE Act already has provision for 25 per cent reservation in private schools for students belonging to economically weaker sections. So far, only 35 per cent of private schools have implemented this provision. The rest have moved the Supreme Court arguing that RTE should not be applicable on schools that do not receive government aid.

Private schools in Bihar were the first ones to oppose RTE. They even staged strikes against RTE. Though the deadline of registering with the government under RTE was November 2012, they did not get themselves registered, delaying implementation of RTE. In the last three years only 12,000 private schools have registered with the government though officials estimate their number to be more than double. Those who are registered are pressuring parents not to be vocal at SMC meetings.

imageFarida Lambay, member of the advisory council on implementation of the RTE Act, Maharashtra, explains: “Private schools argue that they must be exempted from RTE provisions because they do not receive government aid. But the land, water and power connections these institutions receive are heavily subsidised by the government.”

President of Forum for Fairness in Education, a Maharashtra-based association, Jayant Jain, says the government should be blamed for lack of enthusiasm among private schools. A survey of teachers from more than 100 private unaided and government schools in Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan is revealing. “Nearly 80 per cent teachers from private schools did not show interest in the Act or were not aware about it. This is when most government school teachers were at least acquainted with the basics of the Act,” says Chavan of PTA Forum who conducted the survey. This could be because there were several seminars and training programmes organised by the government for the teachers.

As expected, people are now approaching courts to seek implementation of RTE. On August 29, hearing a public interest petition on violation of the right by private schools, the Gujarat High Court issued a notice to the state government and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to enforce RTE. Social jurist Ashok Agrawal in Delhi says the Delhi High Court is also hearing at least a dozen such cases against poor RTE implementation by private schools.

(With inputs from Jitendra in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, Alok Gupta in Bihar, M Suchitra in Andhra Pradesh, and Akshay Deshmane and Aparna Pallavi in Maharashtra)

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