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A year after the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the dream of universal education still remains a distant reality for many children due to the lack of political will in the states, experts said Thursday.

According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the chief monitoring body of the Act’s implementation, only 13 states have notified their state rules.

“Without notification, how can the states implement the RTE Act? Notification of the rules means a financial commitment on behalf of the states, like teachers’ salaries and the like. For this there has to be a political commitment,” NCPCR chairperson Shantha Sinha said.

Taking stock of the progress of the RTE Act, she added: “There are drawbacks, including lack of human resources but with political commitment, we can skip timelines to make sure the RTE reaches every child in this country.”

A report taking stock of implementation of RTE in India was presented by the RTE Forum – a coalition of over 25 national civil society organisations and over 10,000 grass roots networks – at the conference.

According to the report, there were several provisions within the Act that had to be fulfilled within the first year, but not much progress has been made.

The report said that while the NCPCR has been mandated with monitoring the implementation of the Act, the body lacks the capacity to do justice.

“The overall shortage of teachers is estimated to be 14 lakh and states like Uttar Pradesh have a huge shortfall of over two lakh vacancies, which have not been filled up due to lack of resources,” the report said.

Eight states have less than 50 percent teachers who are professionally qualified, it added.

“Many teachers are not aware about the Act. If we want to get rid of archaic practices like corporal punishment, urgent attention must be given to school based training for teachers,” said Ambrish Rai, spokesperson of RTE Forum.

The report said that the school management committees (SMCs), with three-quarter representation from the community, are the first line complaint mechanisms under the RTE Act. However, these have not been formed in most states.

“This leaves parents and children without a visible place to go if their educational rights are violated,” the report said.

The Right of children to Free and Compulsory Education Act came into force from April 1, 2010. According to it, the right to education will be accorded the same legal status as the right to life as provided by the Indian Constitution. Every child in the age group of 6-14 years will be provided 8 years of elementary education in an age appropriate classroom in the vicinity of his/her neighbourhood.

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