By Karthik Suresh, Editor, CLATGyan, now also a II Semester Student of NALSAR University of Law.
The Right to Education Act came into force on the 27th August 2009. It was heralded as the new dimension in India’s fight against illiteracy. The Act was to provide free and compulsory education for children between the ages of six and fourteen.
A child deserves a basic and free elementary education, and this has been made clear. Under the ambit of the Act, disabled children enjoy the same right to pursue a free and compulsory education, so any action by which disabled children being denied elementary education, is illegal. The Act requires local authorities to build schools in those areas which do not have one, within the next three years. The framework of the national curriculum is to be made by the Centre, as also developing and enforcing teacher’s training standards. Capitation fee has been banned, under section 14, which prescribes a fine ten times equal to the money demanded, to be collected from the wrongdoers. This is an attempt at ensuring that the lower-income groups have access to the same education quality which higher-income groups have. Fines have been imposed for those who conduct screening procedures. It is mentioned that no child may be denied admission due to lack of age proof. A child may not be expelled or withheld in a class until the completion of elementary education. No child may be subject to physical and/or mental harassment in school. Rules for certification of schools also are included. The provision for setting up of a school management committee, where at least 3/4th of the members should be parents/guardians, is included. This committee shall look into the day-to-day affairs of the School and take important decisions. Accountability measures for teachers and other school staff have been introduced. Teachers are exempt from any non-teaching work, and they may not conduct private tuitions, so that they are free from other obligations and concentrate on imparting good education. To protect the Rights of Children, Ch. VI of the Act assigns the National and State Commission for protection of Child Rights the power to conduct inquiry and take action against complaints of children being denied the Right to Education. The act gives the minimum student-teacher ratios, standards about the school buildings, catering for midday meal scheme, play ground and sports facilities, library etc.
The Right to Education Act has brought in reform in the field of education. Schools now are statutorily required to adhere to the standards that the Act prescribes. It will enable children who are being denied education, to get back the schooling they are entitled to. For Example, children in rural India have been denied education, often with their parents asking them to drop out of school to help with the housework and work in the fields. The heinous practice which has to end is that of child labor, due to which children are denied even basic schooling. These problems would be addressed by the Act. The emancipation from bonded labor was one of the government’s aims, while this statute was being formulated. Along with the existent ‘Sarva Shikshan Abhiyan’ and the ‘Each One Teach One’ programs, the Right to Education Act is yet another step (the most powerful one as yet), to fight the problem of illiteracy in India, and, to give the light of knowledge to all children by making schooling compulsory.