When the Government announced with great fanfare the passing of the Right to Education (RTE) Bill, I was among those who hoped against hope that the Government would adopt the neighbourhood school policy and upgrade all State run schools to Central school quality so that every child could walk to a good school. The RTE per se should provide quality education in their own schools to thus allow every child in India to access such education. The model elucidated in the Section 12 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 states that the Act has made it compulsory for every private unaided school to admit at least 25% of its entry level class from children belonging to weaker and disadvantaged groups. The article cited above shows the many flaws of this proposal and is worth a read. One of the comments I agree with in toto is the following: This minor social engineering has produced some ridiculous protests from the elite. Yet, equally ridiculous is the claim that this will significantly help the poor. Of India’s hundreds of millions of schoolchildren, only a few thousand poor will enter the elite havens. The others will remain at the mercy of third-rate government schools that provide no worthwhile education. We seem to be a State that loves social engineering and reservations of all kinds. For the last six decades and more we have shown that we are masters at perpetrating divisive polices and thus create a new caste system.
I have also realised over the years mutating from a naive and ignorant person, who believed with credulity that every social programme initiated by the Government was done for the right reasons, to a cynical and disenchanted one, that these programmes are not meant for the stated beneficiaries but to fulfil wily political agendas and fill deep pockets. This is done with great finesse and a perfect play. people are led to believe that all such programmes are debated by activists and the people and thus carry a stamp of approval. This is a sham as ultimately all the inconvenient parts are deleted and the Bill presented at the appropriate time like just before elections to show one’s self as the Messiah of the downtrodden. And we gullible idiots refuse to see through their game.
One of our most respected activist who has been the at the helm of many important proposals resigned yesterday from the National Advisory Council that that sets the social agenda for the government. In her statement she said: It is difficult to understand how a country like India can deny the payment of minimum wages and still makes claims of inclusive growth. The story is the same be it minimum wages, education, health and even food security. I do not understand how startling statistics such as more than 5000 children dying every day of malnutrition does not trouble our law makers and administrators. I guess it is perhaps it is not their children who die. It is only when we find it in ourselves to take ownership of all that is wrong and raise our voices that things may change. Why do I feel that that day is still a long time coming.
I started this post by expressing my reservation on the 25% reserved for poor children in all schools from the swankiest to the humblest. First of all the stark reality is that it is not the poor kids who are availing of this facility but middle class kids with clever parents who are masters at getting fake documents. However let us presume that some truly deserving kid make it, there is no way the child can keep abreast with the remaining 75%. Here is a small example.
I am in the process of helping Utpal finished his holiday homework. His school did give us hard copies of the said homework but in the case of Kiran, the homework had to be downloaded from the Internet. I wonder how a kid living in a slum could manage that. Then the homework itself required lots of searching on the Net and most of the questions could not be understood by the child himself and needed adult help. And last but not the least it cost me over 1500 rupees to get all the stationery and other material required to complete the homework. I would love to ask our Education Minister how he expects illiterate and poor parents to get their child’s homework done.
This is only one aspect of the situation. There many more. Just put yourself in the place of a slum kid in a swanky school. You will have all the answers.
We need to stop fooling ourselves. It is our money that runs all the social programmes in the country. It is time we demanded accounts. But to do that we must first accept that there exists a whole world on the other side of an invisible line, and they too are citizens of this country with same rights as us.