From today, every child has a right to education

Source: Times of India
Date: April 10, 2010

NEW DELHI: Nearly eight years after the Constitution was amended to make education a fundamental right, the government today implemented a historic law to provide free and compulsory education to all children in age group of 6-14 years.

The 86th Constitutional amendment making education a fundamental right was passed by Parliament in 2002. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, a law to enable the implementation of the fundamental right, was passed by Parliament last year. Both the Constitutional amendment and the new law came into force from today.

The new law makes it obligatory on part of the state governments and local bodies to ensure that every child gets education in a school in the neighbourhood.

Its implementation will directly benefit close to one crore children who do not go to schools at present. These children, who have either dropped out from schools or have never been to any educational institution, will be enrolled in schools.

The Right To Education is being touted by the UPA government as another major achievement after Right To Information Act and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

At present, there are nearly 22 crore children in the relevant age group. However, 4.6 per cent of these children (nearly 92 lakh) are out of school, a ministry official said.

The school management committee or the local authority will identify the drop-outs or out of school children above six years of age and admit them in classes appropriate to their age after giving special training.

The Act makes it a right of every child to get education. The Act makes it obligatory for the appropriate governments to ensure that every child gets free elementary education.

The Act mandates that even private educational institutions have to reserve 25 per cent seats for children from weaker sections.

Certain schools have already challenged the law in the Supreme Court as being "unconstitutional" and violating fundamental rights of unaided private educational institutions. However, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has said that legal process would not affect the implementation of law.

The Finance Commission has provided Rs 25,000 crore to the states for implementation of the Act.

As per the government's estimate, there will be a requirement of Rs 1.71 lakh crore in the next five years for implementation of the Act. Sibal said that the government has arranged the required funds for implementing the law.

The Act says no school can deny admission to a student and all schools need to have trained teachers. In case of schools not having trained teachers, they will have to comply with the provision within three years.

As per the new law, the schools need to have certain minimum facilities like adequate teachers, playground and infrastructure. The government will evolve some mechanism to help marginalised schools comply with the provisions of the Act.

The government has already prepared model rules which have been circulated to the states for preparing their own rules for implementation of the Act. The Centre has also prepared separate rules for the Union Territories which will be notified by the Law Ministry next week.

As per the Model rules, the local bodies and the state governments will undertake household surveys and neighbourhood school mapping to ensure that all children are sent to school.

The rules say that the state governments or local authorities will determine the neighbourhood schools by undertaking school mapping. Such agencies shall ensure that no child is subjected to caste, class, religious or gender abuse in the school.

The local authority will conduct a household survey and maintain a record of all children in its jurisdiction. The record will contain detailed information about the child and the parents and will specify whether the child belongs to the weaker section or disadvantaged group or having any disability.

The state government or local authorities will identify children with disabilities and children from disadvantaged groups every year.

Unaided and private schools shall ensure that children from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups shall not be segregated from the other children in the classrooms nor shall their classes be held at places and timings different from the classes held for the other children.

The new law will ensure that quality education is provided to children of all community, including minorities and backward classes.

However, the reservation for weaker section will not be implemented from this year as the admission season is almost over. It will be implemented from 2011-12.

The state government and local authorities will establish primary schools within walking distance of one km of the neighbourhood. In case of children for Class VI to VIII, the school should be within a walking distance of three km of the neighbourhood.

The government has prepared a short film on the new law which would be aired on TV channels to create awareness.

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