Every Child must enjoy her right to education: Shantha Sinha, Chairperson National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

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A SHAKTI VAHINI RESEARCH INITIATIVE

Dr. Shantha Sinha, Chairperson National Commission for Protection of Child Rights speaking to the media in New Delhi today on the occasion of one year of the implementation of the RTE Act said that children’s right to education is a fundamental right and non-negotiable. But have actions been taken to ensure that every child is in school enjoying her right every day of her life without any disruption? She asked whether all the barriers that come in the way of their access to schools are by law removed-that education is free and there cannot be charging of school fees or any other charges; there shall be no insistence on documentation like birth certificates, transfer certificates, progress reports for proof of a child to be enrolled in school; indeed a child could be admitted at any time during the academic session and cannot be asked to come the next session; have arrangements been made for special training to enable a child join the age appropriate class; do teachers know how to plan for each child for continuous learning that insists on a non-detention policy; is there a road map for fulfilling all the obligations of providing trained teachers, classrooms, toilets,? Where do children, parents or child defenders go if they have a complaint to make and what kind of access they have to grievance redressal?

There is certainly a consciousness that the RTE Act has to be implemented in letter and spirit and that every child must enjoy her right to education. Yet it seems that in all the above issues, the response of the States have been uneven. Some States have moved ahead of others on some issues. There are government orders and circulars issued facilitating the implementation of some sections of the Act. School Management Committees have been constituted to oversee the schools and develop school development plans, again only in some States. Model rules have been adopted in some States and there is a helpline in a couple of States to take calls at the State level for action at the village level.

Dr. Shantha Sinha said there is a need to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, to abolish all forms of child labour enabling children to enjoy their right to education, or incorporate appropriate sections on RTE in the proposed Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act. More importantly there is a need to provide for sufficient autonomy and decentralization at the level of the gram panchayat. The functions of the local authority as envisaged in the Act have to be facilitated.

She further said that the RTE Act is a step towards building our society with emphasis on equity and justice. The growing gap and disparities between social classes can be addressed only when a world of opportunities and choices are available to our children through education. Education alone can break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and deprivation. Education alone can give self-esteem and self –worth enabling full citizenship. The civil society and the State must come together as equal partners in making the provisions of the RTE Act an actuality. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights NCPCR has been given the responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the Act and as a first step in this direction it has set up an RTE Division, which would over time develop its systemic capabilities to oversee the implementation of RTE in the country. The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.

NCPCR’s role has been in a) Examining and reviewing the safeguards for rights provided by or under this Act and recommend measures for their effective implementation b) Inquiring into complaints relating to child’s right to free and compulsory education and taking necessary steps c) Monitor policies related to RTE.

NCPCR has approached this as an opportunity to provide a platform for people’s participation in monitoring their entitlements. As a start, the Commission has appointed state representatives in their respective states. They will also serve as focal points for both the commission and the citizens in follow up of complaints relating to violation of the RTE Act. In addition, the Commission has initiated a number of other processes, such as the social audit, which is a ‘tool’ that has been developed for monitoring the RTE Act, and is currently being tried out in ten states as a pilot; public hearings, which provide a platform for the public to highlight violations against the RTE Act and at the same time, generate awareness about the Act.

Simultaneously, the Commission is in the process of developing a Complaint Management System that will receive, classify and register complaints through a specially designed complaints management system [CMS] for RTE complaints. This system will enable the public to track their complaints online.

A website, that will share knowledge on the RTE Act and provide information on what the public can do to be more involved, is being designed. The website will be interactive and create a space for individuals and civil society groups to monitor the implementation of the RTE Act by using survey tools which will be available on the website.

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