A radical goal of the Right to Education Act seems to have been lost with union human resource development minister Pallam Raju (in pic) admitting on Friday that the government will not be able to meet the March 31 deadline for infrastructure norms in all schools.
The idea behind the deadline was that it could address infrastructure inequality in elementary schooling — the wide gap between public and private schools.
Raju though said they were still committed to the Act. Nine infrastructure norms had been listed in the original Act. However, on ground “only 7% schools are RTE compliant,” according to the RTE forum figures.
The Act was passed when Kapil Sibal was the HRD minister and the Friday’s announcement did not come as a surprise as Raju, who took over in October last, couldn’t have been expected to massively change the speed at which the implementation was moving.
The other big Sibal project was the Aakash Tablet 2 which Datawind company was to supply to IIT Bombay. This too has not yet happened, as Datawind has not been able to deliver even half of the one lakh tablets ordered by IIT Bombay.
While the RTE Act had always been ambitious, there is a feeling among educationists that the government has not tried hard enough.
According to educationist Vinod Raina who was a part of the team which drafted the Act, “Infrastructure, classrooms and girls toilets are very easy targets to meet. They should have been met.”
He adds that: “Infrastructure development has been uneven and a sense of urgency was not present.”
Budgetary allocation too has been inadequate each year since the act’s implementation. While the 2010 cabinet approved figure meant 34,000 crore each year, it has been less every year. This year the budget allocated it to Rs 27,258 crore.
With the deadline set to be missed, parents can now move the court demanding the meeting of their rights. There is hope that this might lead to speeding up infrastructure.