Just nine months after the Right to Education (RTE) Act was implemented in India, promising free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14, over 10,000 cases of violation have been registered by a child rights body in the capital.
Some children were denied admission to school, some were subjected to corporal punishment by the school authorities and yet others were denied the benefit of the economically weaker section (EWS) quota for poorer students in Delhi schools.
According to Amod Kanth, chairman of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), the body has registered 10,500 cases of RTE Act violation since its implementation.
‘As per the RTE Act, the DCPCR monitors its implementation in Delhi. We have registered cases which involve violations of at least 15 kinds, like screening tests before admissions, corporal punishment, admission denial, mental harassment and others,’ Kanth told IANS in an interview.
‘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,’ he added.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act was enforced April 1, 2010. The Act promises free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14.
Among others, 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.
The violations registered by DCPCR have been on the same lines.
In one case, 10 girls living in Delhi’s Azadpur area were denied admission to a school in Classes 6 to 8 because they could not provide school leaving certificates. The girls were tutored at home.
‘The commission intervened and issued a notice to the school principal after which the girls were admitted to the Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Azadpur,’ a DCPCR document revealed.
In another case, a physically handicapped father approached the commission after his daughter was denied admission under the EWS quota in a public school at Shalimar Bagh, northwest Delhi. In yet another instance, a Class 5 child was asked to take admission elsewhere on complaint of his ‘poor hygiene’ and behaviour, prompting his parents to approach the commission.
In the EWS quota case, a notice was issued to the school after which the girl was given admission under the quota, while in the other case the child was taken back to the school after counselling.
The main reason for these violations, Kanth said, is lack of awareness among teachers, school authorities and parents alike.
‘For this reason, we have 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. Across the country the number is nearly 60 million,’ Kanth told IANS.
‘They have to also understand that it’s their responsibility to bring those children who are unreachable to schools. The role of voluntary organisations is important in this, but it is not mentioned in the RTE Act,’ he added.
The DCPCR issued notice to the Delhi government Friday on the nursery admission guidelines that it says are against the provisions of the RTE Act.
Other than the random selection criteria for 25 percent seats in the EWS category, the notice said for the rest of the 75 percent the guidelines violated the RTE Act since schools would be able to formulate their own admission policy.
‘The schools will be free to base their criteria like sibling, alumni, single parent, transfer case or neighbourhood. Multiple criteria would create preferences for certain types of categories of children over the other category of children which would be a clear violation of provisions of the RTE Act,’ a DCPCR statement said.
Kanth added: ‘The DCPCR is like a legal body. We are not toothless and our aim is not to act like an NGO. We act like a civil court.’