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Depriving kids of their future

Three years after the enactment of the Right of children to free and compulsory education (RTE) Act, it has still not been implemented with the seriousness that it should have been. As the deadline of 31 March to comply with the RTE Act requirements looms large, most of the states appear to be remiss when it comes to its accomplishment. The original deadline of 31 March 2013 was given to schools to create infrastructure required for the delivery of free and compulsory elementary education, with a target of the RTE Act being the provision of schools and basic infrastructure. The RTE Act specifies a time frame of three years for all existing schools to meet several input parameters. According to Section 19 of the Act, non-compliance would lead to revocation of the school’s recognition and subsequent closure. Any change in the deadline, will require an amendment to the law. Nine infrastructure requirements had been listed in the original Act. These included meeting norms for requirements such as a neighbourhood school where there was none, school building, fencing, toilets, playgrounds, classrooms, drinking water facilities and ramps for differently-abled children. As of date, less than 10 per cent schools in India have met these requirements. India has 13 lakh elementary level schools and close to eight million out of school children.
 
Available data shows that about 40 per cent of primary schools across the nation don’t have adequate teachers, 33 per cent are without girls’ toilets and 39 per cent don’t have ramps for children with disabilities while, of the 52 lakh sanctioned posts of teachers, there are 11 lakh vacancies. The RTE Act is a major attempt at overcoming the challenges that education poses to a country such as India, which has one-third of the world’s illiterate. It should not be allowed to go waste and states must use any extension of the deadline, which now appears inevitable, profitably to ensure the full implementation of the Act. Education is the basic right of every child, which this Act recognises. The right will, however, be meaningless and remain only on paper unless the basic parameters for schooling are met. Without the infrastructure and in the absence of adequately trained teachers, it is impossible to actualise this basic right. Hence,  deadlines for the compliance of RTE norms must be taken seriously.
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