What’s still wrong with the Right To Education?

Few states are performing better than others in the implementation of RTE 12(1) (c) and over 80 per cent of private schools aren’t participating in the process – What do these findings tell?

The movie ‘Hindi Medium’ may have left us with more questions in our mind about education than the laughter it left on our faces. Movies and movie-makers have a knack of making a point without drawing blood, or yawns. But we need more than humour to move on from this encouraging first mile to the challenging last mile. PVR, ironically or not, is trying to do just that.

Look at some inches covered during a pilot stage between 2016 and 2018. Roughly, 53,810 calls were made, 33,289 families were reached-out for information, 11,209 applications got filled and 75 jobs were created as Sikhsha Shayogis enabling women empowerment. Also, about 359 direct applications were filled at PVR NEST’s Chidscapes centers with an outreach count of 1.6 lakh families across six states. Seems like around 4356 children have been granted seats in private schools of their choice and will be able to study at the allocated school free of cost up-to class 8th.

It’s a big screen

These are not a Friday’s Box-Office Numbers, but they will last and grow better than any Rs. 200 crore-club for sure. Project Eklavya is what PVR Nest is betting on, having invested extensively in achieving 70,000 admissions in the academic year 2019-20 through Right To Education (RTE). The campaign, as explained by a company statement, aims at building opportunities to enable every child access their Right to Education with a focus on six states; Delhi, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu.

Sports, theatre and entertainment are all potent agents of reinforcing equalisation amongst children – as Ms. Sanjna Kapoor, Co- Founder- Junoon Theatre Group rightly reminded at a recent event that marked the success of the initiative so far.

She said “To be able to make children embrace their freedom, it is quintessential to develop avenues which will instill that confidence in them. On a personal level, I look forward in taking theatres across the nation with Junoon, making children and families from different backgrounds turn a part of the social fabric. feeling equal and welcomed.”

Tarun Cherukuri, Co-founder, Indus Action also opines that education is the foundation of socio- economic growth. “It is time; we come together and work collectively towards social inclusion. Through initiatives like project Eklavya, we are hopeful to expand the benefits of government policies to a larger section of under- catered groups in the society.”

The project was established with a vision to accelerate national growth through economic and social empowerment. As per what its team stresses, it is anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice, democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through the provision of inclusive elementary education to all.

Launch of Project Eklavya for Right to Education (RTE) by PVR

Launch of Project Eklavya

Interestingly, PVR Nest, has also introduced an employee volunteering program enabling PVR employees to engage into social activities. Deepa Menon, Sr. Vice President – CSR, PVR Ltd. explains, “To achieve an equal and just society, it is integral to address the grass-root problems. We believe, enabling citizens of India access their constitutional rights are a shared responsibility between public bodies and private enterprises. An effective public- private engagement in addressing to the needs of the disadvantaged communities through sustainable, scalable, community driven models will drive socio- economic development through social inclusion.

Sound-Check

A lot of road lays wild and daunting – not to forget, one that is not that hospitable as of now. So far, five states and union territories are yet to notify the provision while 13 states/Union Territories (UTs) do not have readily available information on the number of students in schools under this provision and consequently, children may not benefiting from the provision in 18 states/UTs. Also, as of 2017, 15 states are yet to notify their per-child costs which is a prerequisite for claiming reimbursements. If we look at some retention surveys Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have returned retention rates of 83 per cent, 76 per cent and 68 per cent respectively. About 60 per cent of costs claimed by states have been reimbursed by the Centre for 2017-18.

These revelations came up in the Bright Spot Report, which evaluates the current status of social inclusion across the country through RTE 12(1)(c). The report also highlighted some policy and implementation gaps: Income limits are exclusionary in some states, with some states having a limit lower than the minimum wage of the state, while some states only consider Below Poverty Line (BPL) families under Economically Weaker Section (EWS). To add to that, ambiguity over the definition of free education prevails as some schools continue to charge ancillary fees which are burdensome on the beneficiary parents and guardians.

Bureaucracy and fine-print rear their heads in the RTE space too. Imagine how much of a deterrent it can be for candidates to claim their spot if age limits for the notified entry-level classes and the issue of nursery classes not being covered for reimbursements have created confusion during implementation. Plus, document requirements like Aadhaar, and certain others have excluded sections of the beneficiary population including children from migrant populations, children of single mothers, among others. There is a disturbing lack of policy clarity on students’ future after passing Class 8.

Project Eklavya aims to bring in an effective, sustainable model to enable increased access to Right to Education under these very discouraging circumstances. Can a technology-based campaign achieve equitable opportunity for every child in the country by enabling them to have access to their legislative Right to Education? Can an engaging innovative app and employee volunteering program at PVR Cinemas fill the gaps that stretch bigger in the country today?

Let’s see how the credits roll. The trailer does bring hope.

 

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