Since its implementation almost a year ago, nearly 12,000 cases of violation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act have been registered in the capital by a child rights body. There were cases of corporal punishment, denial under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota and mental harassment among others.
Amod Kanth, chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), said the body had registered a total of 11,725 cases pertaining to violation of the RTE Act in Delhi until February this year.
‘As per the RTE Act, DCPCR monitors its implementation in Delhi. We have registered cases which involve violations of at least 20 kinds, like screening tests before admissions, corporal punishment, admission denial, mental harassment and others,’ Kanth told .
The RTE Act, implemented April 1, 2010, promises free and compulsory education to children between ages six and 14. Among other things it says no child shall be denied admission for lack of documents or if the admission cycle in the school is over. Disabled students should also be enrolled in mainstream schools.
Also, while the provisions of the RTE Act are applicable for kids up to Class 8, the Delhi government wants to extend its scope till Class 12.
Complaints are pouring in.
‘Initially, we had taken suo motu cognisance of media reports, but gradually parents started approaching us and now it seems like the floodgates have opened. Wherever required, we approach the school authority concerned and the compliance level is as high as 95 percent,’ Kanth said.
While the nature of violation is varied, most of the complaints coming to the DCPCR are denial of benefit of EWS quota. Schools are supposed to reserve 25 percent of its seats for economically weak sections of society.
‘Complaints to do with the EWS quota are the highest and pertain to private schools. For example, last month the father of an eight-year-old approached us after his child was denied the benefit of freeship under the EWS category. They were not well-to-do and the man had to sell off everything because of a crisis,’ a DCPCR official said.
The case was resolved after the commission intervened and issued a notice to the school.
‘Then again, there were complaints that after obtaining registration form free of cost, parents were not invited to witness the draw of lots under the EWS category. Taking cognisance of the matter, notices were issued against such schools,’ the official added.
Recognising education as a fundamental right of a child, the commission intervened when a public school in east Delhi threatened to expel a child over non-payment of his school fee.
‘Both the parents of Mayank Singh are in prison and there is no other earning member in the family. So issuing a notice over non-payment of fee was not just. We issued a notice to the school after which he was allowed to continue studying in the school free of cost,’ the official said.
The issue of corporal punishment was addressed in yet another case when a student of a reputed public school in Karol Bagh was beaten up by his mathematics teacher for not taking private tuition with him. After the commission’s intervention, the teacher, whose services were on a contract basis, was terminated.
There was also a case of molestation of a girl child in a government senior secondary school in Srinivaspuri in south Delhi. The commission issued a notice to the school, after which the education department conducted an inquiry. The charges were proved and both the erring teacher and the principal were suspended.
‘With the commission’s intervention, 3,216 children have been enrolled in schools in Delhi,’ Kanth said.
The main reason for these violations, Kanth said, is lack of awareness among teachers, school authorities and parents alike. To do its bit, the commission has been conducting awareness programmes for teachers and others on the RTE Act.
‘Teachers and schools have to realise that nearly half a million children in Delhi alone are out of school and most of them are homeless, working children and it is their responsibility to bring those children to school. Across the country, the number is nearly 60 million,’ he said.
‘The role of voluntary organisations is important in this, but it is not mentioned in the RTE Act,’ Kanth added.
‘It’s a good sign however that people are slowly becoming more aware of their rights under the RTE Act. And we can say that because the frequency of complaints has increased manifold,’ he said.