National Commission for Protection of Child Rights holds A Public Hearing in New Delhi on Violations against The Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act

A SHAKTI VAHINI RESEARCH INITIATIVE

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and Joint Operation for Social Help (JOSH) jointly conducted a public hearing on violations against the Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 in Trilokpuri, New Delhi on April 20, 2011.Over 25 cases were presented before a five-member jury panel chaired by NCPCR Chairperson Shantha Sinha. The panel included Farah Naqvi, Member NAC, Vinod Raina, President, BGVS, Yogesh Dubey, Member, NCPCR and Kiran Bhatty, National Coordinator, RTE Division, NCPCR. The jury panel heard complaints on issues relating to negligence of school authorities leading to severe injury to a child, corporal punishment, collection of fees/funds, denial of admissions/scholarships, quality of education and classroom transaction, infrastructure and poor quality mid-day meal.

Over 1400 people attended the hearing, from Trilokpuri and neighbouring areas. In addition, government officials such as the Additional Director, School Education New Delhi, Deputy Director, Directorate of Education MCD, Medical Superintendent, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital and officials from the Delhi Jal Board summoned by the Commission specifically for the hearing were also present. Principals and teachers from the schools in Trilokpuri were also present. The public hearing highlighted that the issues of fee/fund collection, corporal punishment and poor infrastructure in schools in particular, are the most problematic areas in relation to RTE in New Delhi.

The case of teacher negligence for instance was particularly shocking where a boy Hemant suffered a hand injury of permanent nature while playing in the absence of teacher during class hour. Delay in taking him to the hospital and also refusal by the Government Hospital according to the victim’s family further aggravated the injury. The concerned teacher and the hospital officials denied that a delay was caused. Insensitive remarks by the Vice principal of the school like ‘children keep falling’ and his general disinterest wanting to take the matter seriously took the panel aback. The Jury recommended that there will be a detailed investigation by the Commission and it was also directed that the school maintains records of such incidents.

In a number of cases where people testified that schools charge fees/funds of all kinds NCPCR chairperson directed the Additional Director School Education to ensure that in the particular case where money was charged for a school outing is returned within 15 days and ensure that any money charged in any school must be duly returned within three months and a copy of the action taken be sent to the commission. Charging any kind of fees/funds is a clear violation of Section 3 of the RTE Act. After hearing a number of cases on corporal punishment where children were asked to sweep, clean and lift construction material, Jury Member Farah Naqvi remarked, “There will be zero tolerance towards corporal punishment and discrimination and strict action will be taken in each case” sending a strong message to the administration.

Over 206 of the 800 complaints filed with the NCPCR were about non-functional and dirty toilets. The jury asked the administration to submit a report on the status of toilets in all schools and submit it to the commission. In addition to issuing case-wise directions, the Commission also issued a set of general recommendations to the state on developing a school safety policy and a school health policy. The jury remarked that it was overwhelmed with the community response in the hearing and it was heartening to see 1400 people sit through the entire day and come forth and depose before the jury asserting their rights. However the response of the administration in many cases was found wanting on many counts.

Public hearings on RTE have earlier been organised by NCPCR in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in August 2010, in Alwar, Rajasthan and Chennai, Tamil Nadu in November 2010. Complaints relating to corporal punishment, lack of infrastructure, admissions, charging of fees and funds emerged as the most common violations against RTE.

Among the key outcomes of the public hearings, the following are particularly significant:

• The draft RTE State Rules were displayed on the government website for feedback from the public in the state of Tamil Nadu.
• Orders for opening six residential schools for girls in Alwar were issued. Requests for upgradation of schools in Isan ka Baas and Thos villages are under consideration.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) 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. According to the RTE Act, 2009, NCPCR has been mandated to carry out monitoring of the implementation of the Act. NCPCR has approached this as an opportunity to provide a platform for people’s participation in monitoring their entitlements. The Commission has appointed state representatives who will act as eyes and ears on RTE in their respective states. In addition, the Commission has also has initiated a number of other processes such as developing a methodology for monitoring the RTE Act, 2009 conducting public hearings on RTE across many states and generating publicity and awareness on the Act.

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