Friday, May 28, 2010

RTE Postcard Campaign – Students write to Chief Justice of Delhi High Court

A Civil Rights Group

To 27.05.2010
Hon’ble Shri Dipak Misra
Chief Justice
Delhi High Court
New Delhi-110003

Subject: Grievances of children studying in Government Schools and MCD Schools relating to serious violations of their Right to Education

Respected Sir,

We have the honor to bring to your kind notice the serious violations of the Constitutional and the statutory rights of the children to free and compulsory quality elementary education as envisaged in Article 21 (right to life with dignity) and Article 21-A (right to education) of the Constitution of India and in Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 which have come to light during RTE POSTCARD CAMPAIGN on 22.05.2010 in which around 150 students from various government schools and MCD Primary Schools in Jehangirpuri Resettlement Colony gathered and wrote postcards addressed to you highlighting good and bad characteristics of their school and seeking your lordship’s intervention for realization of their rights. It is submitted that the campaign was organized by the Social Jurist, a civil rights group in collaboration with NGO ‘Chetnalaya’. The Social Jurist consists of a group of lawyers and social activists dedicated to the cause of common man and particularly of the children. In the larger scheme, the children were grateful that an education facility is available. However, it is also important to highlight the problems for the sake of improvement. All the postcards are attached hereto for your kind perusal and consideration.

Although the historic Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 which came into force on April 1, 2010 ensures that children between 6-14 years have access to free and quality elementary education, it must be realized that legislating laws is only half the work done. The government has made a promise to millions of children and it is necessary to ensure that the concerned authorities constantly assess the factors that go into preventing the children from attending school. The government and local authorities are obligated to provide schools, set benchmarks, rules of implementation etc regarding various provisions of the Act. The government has to work towards restoring the sanctity of the childhood of school-going children.

It is understood that the Act aims at those who are not privileged enough to exercise their right to quality education. It has become crucial to inculcate equality in our society where large scale disparity prevails. Therefore, every child is equal before law and all of them should have access to the same quality of education. The responsibility of the concerned authorities does not end at bringing such children to school, the essence of the Act is that they actually attend school and complete their elementary education.

It is submitted that many children had a problems with lack of infrastructure facilities. Most of the government schools still do not have the most fundamental requirements like fans, furniture, doors, clean bathrooms etc. The cases of the students surveyed are telling testimony to this lack of essential facilities. (1) Mustaq, a student of Class II, MCD Primary School, G Block Jhuggi, Jehangirpuri, appreciates that his school has continuous water supply, however he complains that his school environment is unhygienic since the garbage is rarely cleared. Another student, (2) Neha, Class V, MCD Primary School, G Block Jhuggi, Jehangirpuri, complains that their bathrooms are very dirty. It is extremely crucial to maintain hygiene in a study environment; children should not be ill and falling behind their attendance. It is relevant to submit that one of the major causes of large scale drop-out of the girl students is lack of hygienic toilet facility in the schools. The infrastructure in some of the schools is incompetent and will not be able to withstand the sudden growth in demand that the Act has created. (3) Shaheen, Class VII, Govt. Senior Secondary Girls School, K Block, Jehangirpuri, attends classes which are carried out on the ground. (4) Jehangir, Class VIII, Govt. Senior Secondary Boys School, K Block, Jehangirpuri has complained that there are as many as 115 students in his class, which has disrupted the student-teacher ratio of the classroom and (5) Aliya, Class II, MCD Primary School, C Block, Jehangirpuri has also complained that there are too many children in her classroom.

Another aspect that requires attention is the quality of the teachers being recruited by these schools. The concerned authorities should have certain standards and norms for recruitment. Although a large number of teachers will be required to cater to the growing demand, it certainly does not mean that anyone who is qualified will become a teacher. Teachers should be an ideal role model for their students. Teachers should be punctual and encourage curiosity. It is unfortunate that the teacher of (6) Surraiya, Class VII, Govt. Senior Secondary Girls School, K Block, Jehangirpuri beats and hits her students. Another interesting issue raised by (7) Pravesh Kumar, Class X, Govt. Senior Secondary Boys School, A Block, Jehangirpuri was that of children gambling and bullying other students. Are the teachers not paying any attention to this? This violates S. 17 of the Act which condemns physical and mental harassment of the child. On the other hand, teacher of (8) Shehnaz, Class VIII, Rani Chennama Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Jehangirpuri, is always on the mobile phone and teacher of (9) Poonam, Class IV, MCD Primary School, G Block Jhuggi, Jehangirpuri, makes them clear garbage in school. Why is not anyone keeping a check on the behavior of these teachers? This is an unfortunate state of affairs. Should access to education of children come with the penalty of cleaning the school themselves?

Every child should be encouraged to indulge in co-curricular and extra curricular activities regularly. This gives them the opportunity to develop their interest and take their mind off academics. It is unfortunate that the school of (10) Kamal Hassan, Class VI, Govt. Senior Secondary Boys School, K Block, Jehangirpuri, does not have a playground and (11) Aslam, Class II, MCD Primary School, BH Block, Jehangirpuri cannot play or recreate because his playground is too dirty to use. Another problem that requires immediate attention is provision of food at these schools. (12) Priyanka, Class VII, Rani Chennama Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Jehangirpuri and (13) Firoza, Class V, MCD Primary School, G Block Jhuggi, Jehangirpuri complain of the lack of food in their schools, they further say that those who distribute the food end up consuming more. The problems do not end here; many schools still do not have access to water and electricity etc.

The need of the hour is to inculcate an accountability system wherein anyone who disobeys the protocol laid down by the Act will be answerable. Grave violations of the Act are taking place everyday. (14) Shahnawaz, Class IV, MCD Primary Boys School, Jehangirpuri was asked to take an admission test, which according to Section 13 of the Act cannot take place, he was deprived of admission in spite of having cleared the test. It is unfortunate that the school authorities are the ones troubling parents when it comes to admission. One would expect them to provide the correct information, however they have made a mockery of the system by asking the parents of (15) Sanjana, Class VIII, Govt. Senior Secondary Girls School, A Block, Jehangirpuri, to pay for her admission to class VI. There are many children like Rabri, Musharraf and Shahana who have constantly attempted to get admission in schools and they have failed. Parents should be encouraged to come forward and complain, it is the only way the system will be regularly assessed.

The following problems were highlighted in the postcards:

1. That many of the postcards were illegible, some were even unfilled showed the lack of proper grooming of the children at school.

2. Infrastructure remains a major setback. Students should have access to clean water, toilet and regular electricity.

3. A proper student-pupil ratio must be determined; the teacher should be able to give all her students individual attention.

4. Benchmarks need to be urgently determined for evaluation of students and performance of teachers.

5. Some teachers discourage students from raising questions.

6. Certain teachers physically abuse and mentally harass students.

7. Some teachers insult the students.

8. Teachers must stop use of mobile phones in the classrooms.

9. Teachers forcing children to clean garbage.

10. Schools arbitrarily denying admission to the children.

The above stated are only a fraction of the problems. It is unfortunate that access to education has been a constant struggle for the unprivileged and disempowered. The State was expected to bring all the children into school within ten years of the commencement of the Constitution but miserably failed. Unnikrishnan’s landmark judgment (1993) of the Hon’ble Supreme Court declaring right to education a fundamental right of every child has never been implemented. Now Article 21-A has been inserted in the Constitution which mandates State to provide free and compulsory education to all the children in the age group 6 to 14 years. Now that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 has been passed and come into force w.e.f. 01.04.2010. It is submitted that despite all these legislations and assurances, the children of the masses are continued to be deprived of their right to quality education.

We, therefore, most humbly request you, Sir, to kindly take cognizance of these postcards and initiate appropriate proceedings against both the State Government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to redress the just, legal and bonafide grievances of the students of these schools relating to serious violations of their right to education.

Thanking you.

Yours Sincerely,

Ashok Agarwal
Advisor, Social Jurist

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