With the deadline for schools to become RTE infrastructure compliant just 4 months away, inadequate progress has led activists and educationists to draft a road map to help the government meet the deadline on March 31, 2013. This is amidst reports that the HRD ministry might discuss extending the RTE deadline to 2015, in the upcoming meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) on November 8.
“It is not an infrastructure issue, but about the approach,” says Ambarish Rai of the RTE forum who is involved in preparing the road map, which will be released on November 14, Children’s day.
They have also written a letter to the HRD minister Pallam Raju, urging him not to consider postponing the deadline. “Why should children be deprived of education due to failure of the state in realising their fundamental right to education,” the letter says. If extended, it fears, the state ‘may never be prepared’ to provide free and fair education to all as mandated by the Act. The letter is signed by former NAC member Annie Namala, Yash Pal, Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander, Medha Patkar among others.
The time line was to provide necessary infrastructure, basic facilities and adequate teacher-pupil ratio by 2013, which has not happened according to the government’s own estimates. “Only about 5% to 6% states are RTE compliant,” says Rai. Extending the deadline, however, would be akin to ‘rewarding non-performance’. Instead, the Centre and state can work on a war footing to meet the deadline.
If some states are not able to meet the requirements as mandated by the RTE, then the layers of authorities that have been built into the RTE act can take up the matter. The Centre need not, ‘anticipate the possible failure of states’, the letter says.
It also says the children most affected by the delay in providing infrastructure and basic facilities are those most vulnerable among the population-belonging to SC. ST, OBC, Muslims, girls and children with disabilities as well as migrant children, displaced children, children in urban poor and conflict areas. If the deadline is extended by two years, there would only be ‘more children to provide’ than is the case now, and “lakhs of children who are now 13 and 14 years old will have passed the age for which RTE is provided. They will have paled into the uneducated shadows, the letter adds. Meanwhile, Pallam Raju is reported to have said in Rajahmundry on Saturday that the RTE will be fully implemented by 2013.