A two day State level RTE stocktaking was organized by Odisha RTE Forum at Hotel Presidency, Bhubaneswar on 26th & 27th April 2012, attended by hundreds of RTE Activists, academicians, legislators, educationist, community members, teachers, children and officials and minister from education department. Their participation and iteration regarding grass root experiences symbolized the strength and limitations of the Act incongruent of the prevalently spelt the ‘RCFCE-2009’ for every child of our country.
Following the inaugural session there was a testimonial session, where a variety of grievance and violation of RTE act related cases like Collection of fees and capitation fees , corporal punishment, denial of admission on different ground, age-appropriate admission and special training, teaching in mother tongue, discrimination in school, problem with migrant children and tribals, provisions of ramps, drinking water, equipments, scholarships, teaching learning materials etc. were presented by children, SMC members, RTE activist and NGO representatives. The session not only reflected the sorry state of affair in the state beyond all the claim by the government in this regard, but also highlighted major noncompliance like 25% in private school, collection of fees in schools, violation of SMC guidelines etc.
There were four parallel panel discussion in the post lunch session on some of the major yardsticks of the RTE act like Access, Community participation, Quality and Protection. Many sub themes were clubbed with all these main themes to make it practically feasible to discuss and generate certain broad recommendation. Accordingly a list major recommendation was prepared from panel discussion in terms of required amendments in the state rule and creating mechanism, structures and policy changes to implement the act in the grassroots level.
The next important session was in fact main session of the convention as the Minister of Deptt. of School and Mass Education answered to question raised by the participants on issues relating to the overall status of elementary education in the state and level of RTE compliance during the last one and half year, after the notification of the state model rule. More than 300 participants remained witness to the debate and discourse amidst the presence of the likes of Dr. Vinod Raina, shri Ambrish Rai, and Shri Anil Pradhan. Ms. Shirin Naseem chaired this important session.
The pre-lunch and the last session of the meeting was the way forward one, where the major networks working in education and child right issues sat together to discuss the plan and strategies that would be critical in shaping the momentum for the effective implementation of RTE in the state.
The programme ended with a vote of thanks by Mr. Diganta Mohanty acknowledging overall success of the programme and united solidarity shown from everybody including all the agencies, networks, NGOs and all other stakeholders.
MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE STOCK TAKING:
1. State Rules on RTE need to be amended. Most out-of-school children in Odisha are from tribal communities. Conscious efforts need to be made to bring them into the classroom. This has to be accompanied by ensuring the appointment of teachers from local areas along with a decentralized curriculum
2. Identification of out-of-school children in the state should be completed with immediate effect. In rural and tribal areas in particular, the process should actively involve NGOs and community organizations like Self-Help Groups, youth clubs, Mahila Mandals, etc.
3. State Rules should clearly articulate strategies to bring back migrant children to school. For this, the Government of Odisha may refer to the Andhra Pradesh State Rules that clearly address this issue. Inter-state collaboration needs to be formalised and accelerated to ensure this
4. Publishing a list of private schools that are obliged to provide free education to 25% students from economically weaker sections as a result of assistance received by them from the state government
5. Pre-school education is primarily a state responsibility. The Government of Odisha needs to come up with a clear policy on early childhood education in the form of special clauses in the State Rules
6. The State Rules should clearly articulate the specific measures need to be taken for children with disability and special needs. All classrooms need to be made accessible with an adequate number of ramps. Accessible study materials, alternative and augmentative communication mechanisms need to be designed to help such children gain access to school education
7. Many government schools have been reporting vacancies among Urdu teachers. These need to be filled without further delay to facilitate Urdu learning among Muslim children
8. Though the State Rules promise scope and space for child participation in SMCs, this is yet to be put in practice. Necessary steps must be taken to ensure that at least one boy and one girl become members of each SMC
9. Parents of disabled children need to be included in the School Management Committees (SMCs) so that their needs are addressed properly and the voices of children with disability are heard
10. As stipulated in the Act and the Rules, the State Advisory Council needs to be constituted with immediate effect with proper representation from civil society. District and Block level Advisory Councils should also be constituted with membership from NGOs, SC and ST communities, and parents of disabled children
11. The State should make proactive efforts to involve NGOs, not just in the ‘Siksha ka Haq Abhijan’ movement but also in the implementation of the RTE Act at all levels. In tribal and rural areas in particular, NGOs should be proactively involved in capacity building of SMCs. Wherever necessary, the composition of SMCs should be reviewed to address violations in their formation
12. The State should come up with specific plans and timelines with respect to the special training measures that need to be arranged to ensure that out-of-school children successfully enroll in age-appropriate classes
13. School Development Plans (SDPs) should be drawn up by SMCs and in consultation with children to ensure that their concerns and needs are properly addressed
14. In a state like Odisha where children have different realities and vulnerabilities, context-sensitive designing of the syllabus and text books needs to be ensured. This needs to be accompanied by adequate decentralization of the syllabus and educational administration
15. Teacher training syllabi should be redesigned keeping in mind the recommendations made in the NCF 2005 and RTE Act
16. The Government of Odisha should form sub-committees on different issues affecting education such as sub-committees on Tribals, Minorities, Migrants disabled children etc
17. The State Rules should categorically designate the Gram Panchayat as the local authority and clearly define their roles and responsibilities in the context of children’s right to schooling
18. As promised in the Act, teachers should be spared from additional responsibilities like overseeing the MDM scheme and construction of school buildings. They should focus only on teaching and classroom transactions
19. There is an urgent need to collect authentic data on the real status of primary education in the state (adequacy of schools, enrolment and drop-out rates, the number of children migrating and engaging in child labour etc.) through participatory surveys.