By Gopinath Vokaria Via e-mail
This has reference to the new Right to Education Act in India. To realize the objective of the Act, it should have been comprehensive enough to include a provision for food for “belly,” along with food for “brain.”
The main reason for maximum school dropouts is the absence of a national level program for providing food for children in schools. Learning is impossible in a regime of poverty. Families living below the poverty line are forced to consider children more than tangible and saleable assets. Hence, earning food gets preference over earning wisdom. In such a situation, child labor becomes an acceptable necessity than desire.
The much touted 1986 Act intended for the protection of children from the harshness of child labor turned out to be a damp squib in the statute books because the legislation, with all its pious expectations, could not provide alternatives to compensate the economic loss caused to such families in the name of securing children from the clutches of child labor. Back from the bondage of child labor, children are forced to feel the “harshness” of learning even as there is no means to fight the beast of hunger.
Secondly a vast majority of our schools lack the basic infrastructure like classrooms, a roof and blackboards. Many of them lack quality teachers too. Although the RTE Act provides a framework for ensuring quality education, creating infrastructure, and making available enough trained teachers, it needs to be translated into action at the ground level by the collective efforts of all concerned – parents, teachers, students and the Central and state governments.
Will they give a holistic look at the RTE Act to make it more comprehensive and meaningful?