By Counterview Desk
The National Commission for Protection Child Rights (NCPCR) in a new report has suggested that wide regional imbalances exist in the provision of education in Gujarat. Prepared as minutes on the basis of an NCPCR team’s field visit to Kutch’s Khavda region, Rajkot, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, the report says that development in some of the pockets of Kutch district has failed to touch the people of the region. Especially referring to the schools situated in the remote Khavda taluka, where the NCPCR team spent some time inspecting village schools on July 24, the report says, “The taluka is 70 kilometre from Bhuj, the district headquarters. And some of the villages we visited were another 50 kilomtres away. Indeed, it is possible to say that development of the region is 120 kilometres away from the mainstream.”
The NCPCR team visit took place following a study of 506 government primary schools in Kutch, Ahmedabad, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Anand, Kheda, Panchmahals and Vadodara districts in order to ascertain whether the right to education (RTE) Act was being implemented in its letter and spirit in Gujarat’s rural areas. Carried out by Ahmedabad-based NGO, Janvikas, based on the study, a complaint was lodged by Jan Adhikar Manch to the NCPCR over the failure to implement RTE in certain areas of the state. This prompted the NCPCR to send a high-level team led Dr Dr Vandana Prasad to Gujarat from July 23 to 26, 2013. Apart from visiting Ahmedabdad, Gandhinagar Sachivalaya and Rajkot, the team made special on-the-spot inspection of schools in the remote areas of Kutch district.
Based on the visit, the team indicated that the Khavda region remains backward because of its geographical location, yet the officialdom appears indifferent to its needs. “Some of its area has been declared prohibited, as it is situated next to the India-Pakistan border. People of the region are not allowed to stage demonstrations without prior permission of intelligence agencies. Despite being Indian citizens, people of the region are deprived of some of their basic constitutional rights”, the report underlines. It visited several village schools to ascertain the ground realities.
During the team’s visit to a school in Sumapor village, which is situated 19 kilometres away from Khavda, the team members found that seven classes, from standard one to seven, were being run in the three-room school, built in 2003, which is in a dilapidated state. “Three years ago, the school’s ceiling began cracking, and portions of it started to fell. Despite several representations, the government authorities refused to pay need. Nobody came for site inspection”, the report notes, adding, “On January 29, 2012, the school management committee passed a resolution to repair the school building’s ceiling, yet nobody cared. The authorities remained indifferent towards the building despite local media reports and a formal representation on April 1, 2013 to the district education officer. On July 1, 2013, a portion of the ceiling fell and four children were wounded. While one boy suffered from serious head injury, another boy’s three fingers received serious cut.”
The report notes, “The injured children were not even properly taken care of in the government hospital. The parents of the children had to spend from their pocket to supply such basic facilities, which should have been provided by the hospital, such as syringe and gloves.” Based on the field visit, the NCPCR recommended that early disciplinary action should be initiated against the officials responsible for the indifference shown to the school. Other recommendations included immediate construction of a new school building after razing the present one to the ground, immediate compensation to children who suffered injuries, and a complete survey of all school buildings in the region which were in poor state in order to begin urgent repaid work.
The NCPCR team also visited anganwadis – which did not have workers – and said they should be provided with staff with immediate effect, even if it meant relaxing the norms of appointment. Other recommendations included regular health checkup for all school children, a complete record of each child checked, and an interaction with members of the civil society in order to ensure quick implementation of the problems bogging children of the remote region. The team held a meeting with district officials in Bhuj, and asked them to act immediately to the recommendations. The report claimed, as a result, “instructions” were issued to officials concerned for “necessary steps.”
Another school, which the NCPCR team visited, was in Moravas (Paiya) village. While the school looked impressive on the first site, the team found that for 132 children studying in the school there was just one teacher. An alternative arrangement of two instructors had just been made till permanent teachers were appointed, the team was told. Further, there was no arrangement for drinking water for children, the door of the kitchen shed was broken, and the school did not have the main gate. Government officials assured the team that all this would be taken care of, the report notes. Thereafter, the team went to the anganwadi centre, where it observed that there was no fan. “Officials assured the team that necessary steps would be taken soon in order to provide infrastructure”, the report added.
The next village the team visited was Jamwas (Jamkunaria). The report said, “There are three schools in the village, and none of them have standard eighth, a necessity under the RTE Act. As a result, as many s 27 boys have to go five kilometers away to study in standard eight, and another 25 girls have been forced to drop out.” The villagers put forward several demands before the team, which included early provision of standard eight in the school, need for drinking water facilities in all schools, provision of more teachers instead of just one teacher each school, and provision of instructor to teach computers, lying idle for two years because of lack of computer teacher. “The NCPCR team expressed its unhappiness, and decided to raise the matter at the highest level in the state government”, the report said.
On July 25, the NCPCR team held a meeting with NGOs in Ahmedabad, where it heard complaints about poor state of government primary schools in such areas of the city like Vatva, Gomtipur, Bombay Hotel and Narol. NGO representatives complained of lack of toilet facilities for girls, poor drinking water facilities and inadequate school rooms. Demands were also raised for the construction of new schools. On the next day, July 26, the team visited Gandhinagar Sachivalaya, where Dr Vandana Prasad raised issues she and her team were confronted with during their visit to Kutch and interaction with NGOs in Ahmedabad. “The team told government officials to ensure implementation of provisions of the RTE Act by providing necessary infrastructure”, the report said, adding, “Government officials assured the team they would do the needful.”
— Rajiv Shah