RTE deadline: How the Delhi government has failed parents

Despite an overwhelming demand by parents whose children attend government schools to improve the quality of education their children receive, the Delhi government has miserably failed in making schools accountable to the local community by failing to set up School Management Committees (SMCs), as mandated by the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

A study conducted in Delhi’s six districts covering 29 government schools and 1,425 households on the status of implementation of the RTE Act finds that while 7o percent of the parents said they wanted to be given “more space and scope to improve the functioning of the school,” 99 percent of the schools had failed to form school management committee (SMCs) — a joint committee comprising parents, teachers and members from the local administration.

SMCs are empowered by the RTE Act not to only monitor the working of the school but also prepare school development plans and monitor the utilization of grants received.

With the three-year deadline to implement the RTE Act expiring on 31 March, less than one percent (0.7 percent) of the schools surveyed in Delhi had formed SMCs. The study was conducted by Joint Operation for Social Help (JOSH), a youth initiative that runs an RTE public awareness project in East Delhi.

The survey was carried out by 60 student volunteers from Delhi’s top colleges including Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi School of Economics, Lady Sri Ram College and St Stephen's. (Read full report here)

Reacting to the near total absence of SMCs in Delhi’s government schools, Shantha Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), who released the study, said “SMCs empower parents to question, to ask the school, for instance, why a teacher is absent. That SMCs have not been formed is a very serious issue. And it is not something that is difficult to comply with.”

 RTE deadline: How the Delhi government has failed parents

Representational Image. AFP

Asked if Delhi was doing worse off than other states when it came to formation of SMCs, Sinha said, “Yes, many states have formed SMCs. They have been given training, in some places they are playing an active role. Here they haven’t even been formed. Based on this report, we will write to the government giving them a time-frame within which to notify schools to form SMCs.”

As per the study, 70 percent of the parents said they did not have a platform where they could talk about their grievances and 55 percent said they had never been called to a parent teacher meeting.

“The data collected across different districts of Delhi clearly indicate that large percentage of parents and community members have never complained or registered a grievance,” states the report.

Among reasons that parents cited for not voicing their complaints were that they were “consistently insulted by the teachers and school authorities while trying to approach them with some concerns” and “fear that their children will be reprimanded in response.”

Says Aheli Chowdhury of JOSH, “There is simply no mechanism for grievance redressal. While on one hand there is a huge lack in provisioning in terms of infrastructure, teachers, prevalence of corporal punishment and so on, parents have absolutely no control or say on what is happening in the school. There needs to be a mechanism that listens to and responds to parents. If no one is listening, how will things improve? No thought has been put into setting up of SMCs. Schools don’t even know what SMCs are. And this a key provision of the RTE Act. The government needs to wake up.”

The other key findings of the report dwell on access, teachers, quality and classroom transaction, inclusion and admission of children from economically weaker sections (EWS) in private schools.

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Updated Date: Mar 14, 2013 21:07:05 IST