Better late than never and even if it ranks as 132th country to do it, India has finally notified the Right to Education as a fundamental right. The move acquires an immediate significance as it promises delivery of Education to the one of the poorest and the biggest adolescent population of the world.
This is a bold move, one with the potential to change the destiny of this country of over a billion people in the coming two decades. Our politicians and leaders need to applauded for backing the RTE and passing this historic legislation, only to reminded of the fact that this is just the first milestone they have crossed in a tortous journey, which will only get tougher in the days to come. For the moment, Mr Sibbal and his team can afford a bright smile, so can the teeming millions of Indian kids, out there in the villages, towns and cities of India.
Sadly, passing a legislation on a sensitive issue like Education is not the solution as most of us think.
The Primary Education sector in India suffers from mammoth issues like:
- Accute shortage of quality teachers and high teacher absenteeism
- Lack of Infrastrucutre in Govt Schools
- High drop-out ratio of over 50 % and more so in case of girls, either due to social customs or lack of financial resources
- Only 7% share of private sector in primary education, as it is non-profitable in rural areas and non - affordable in many tier 2 and 3 cities
- Official corruption and red-tapism
- Minimum Infrastructure to be provided has been mentioned as a legal requirement
- A minimum qualification for the teachers has been prescribed, which they have to attain within 5 years of their joining the job.
- Absenteeism over 10% will lead to official action
- 25 % of the seats of all private schools for class 1 have been reserved for children of economically weaker sections of the society
- Huge huge investment by the Central and State governments over the next 6 years amounting to approx 4 lakh crores to be spent on education
From where will these million teachers come? Why any bright professional will venture into teaching profession with salaries lower than that offered to a class 4 "sarkari peon"? How will we ensure that tons of thousands of crores of public funds meant for our future generations are not eaten by the moth of corruption?
How are we going to ensure that girls won't drop out of schools that don't have a separate ladies toilet?
These are tough challenges to tackle and require every bit of committment from every stakeholder, be it the politicians, or the bureaucracy, the teachers or the school administrators, the parents, the kids, civil society, NGO's and nonetheless me to ensure that the gift of oppurtunity reaches to each and every kid of our country in the name of Education.
N R Narayanmurthy studied by a lamp-post, Dr Kalam studied in a village government school, and why to go far, my father did his own primary schooling in a tribal school. Narayanmurthy has given India and every Indian a global recognition, Dr Kalam has tutored India to follow it's dreams and my father has educated me to be a good human and stand on my feet.
The onus is on us to extend a helping hand to the Murthy's and Kalam's, the Manmohan's and the Raman's , the you's and me's , waiting for that lamp post, that village school, that oppurtunity.
Let's teach them a new poem, " School Chale Hum, School Chale Hum"