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The Right to Education Act
and Abhay Public School, Nithari
|by Col. Gopal Karunakaran|
This is a story of the Right to Educaton (RTE) Act 2010 and its impact on Private Schools.
No, this story is about the hundreds of thousands of privately run schools running in every small town and village and urban slum of India, catering to the poorest of the poor because the public school system (government schools) in our country have failed the poor.
On enquiry from a passer-by, I am told that the school is on the first floor and the Principal’s father is a milk vendor, and so the buffaloes. I walk up the steps and see a neat clean courtyard with three tiny class rooms and the Principals room adjoining the court yard, a new class room seems under construction.
Children are in the midst of a drawing test in the terrace on the first floor.
Dhirendra, the Principal, is a bright man in his twenties and greets me warmly. He comes across as someone sure of what he is doing, and in his eyes you can clearly see the fire to do well in whatever he attempts. He says he now has 92 children from class 1 to class 5 and the school is barely 3 years old. Parents pay Rs 110 rupees per month as tuition fees. Nearly all the fathers are cycle rickshaw pullers and mothers work as domestic maids. He pays his five teachers over 2000 rupees and a couple of them are graduates.
The school runs from 7 am to 12.30 pm. Dhirendra leaves at 11 am to join his regular work in a well known National Hindi daily as a news reporter. The class rooms are as clean as possible given the schools means, and the children are surprisingly very well dressed in clean bright uniforms. The ties the boys sport represent the aspirations of the parents and the school management. He talks animatedly about his “extra initiatives” - the trips planned for children every year and the annual sports meet in a nearby garden. This Dec he is taking them to the National Science Museum at Pragati Maidan and also to the Qutab Minar. He manages that by borrowing a school bus from a well to do school on their school holiday and paying for the fuel and the driver.
I thank Dhirendra for his time and promise to visit again and walk down the road to see the government school for myself.
As I entered the main gate, I wasn’t sure if the school was in session or if it was a holiday. It wore a deserted look with hardly any children around. Then I noticed that the teachers were sitting in a corner basking in the morning winter sun. A few kids were playing outside and a few classes were going on inside the class room.
As I walked further in to the inner courtyard of the over two acre campus, I couldn’t quite believe the lack of hygiene – stagnant water, filth all around - the place clearly had not seen cleaning in days. There were three classes going on with a few students huddled around the teacher.
The school was 20 years old and had only 600 odd students, but had over 25 teachers. I said I could hardly see any students, and no where near the 600 they mentioned. Apparently that was the registered figure, but very few actually attended classes daily. I asked them why they didn’t have more admissions when the huge Nithari village was adjoining the school campus. The teachers said, all in unison, “Parents now think it is fashionable to send their children to “English Medium” schools and don’t prefer the government school.”
I thanked the teachers and said I would come again to meet the Principal. While walking out from the campus, I wondered what I would do if I were a rickshaw puller earning about 7000 rupees a month and cared for my children’s education? Clearly the answers were before me. The warmth, efficiency and concern of Dhirendra’s team were far more attractive than the coldness and the lack of attention of the government school! The private schools also showed that they needed to perform and make parents believe they were delivering education quality to retain their students the next year and get fresh admissions by reputation spread by word of mouth. The government school had no reason to perform and their seemed no government oversight or inspections in the school.
Now the government intends to close the very private schools which is covering for the failure of the public schools, because they don’t meet the physical infrastructure requirements! What the authorities need to realize is that these schools meet the emotional and social infrastructure, far more important than mere physical infrastructure.
You could see that from the smiles on the children's faces!
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