Right to Education (RTE) Forum, in a statement, has said that School Management Committees (SMCs) are at the first level of the grievance redressal mechanism towards universalisation of quality and equitable school education. Text:
Representatives of School Management Committees (SMCs) from 15 States including Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, Orissa and Jharkhand participated in the second National SMC held at the Constitution Club on December 12.
In setting the context, Ambarish Rai, National Convener, RTE Forum emphasized that the first step of constituting SMC has been accomplished in 95% schools across the country after 7 years of RTE Act. That means more than 60,000 schools are still without an SMC. “However, even in institutions that have set up SMC, the members have expressed concern about the total lack of support to them and although their involvement in School Development Plans (SDP) has improved yet even today many of the plans developed in consultation with them have not been implemented barring those related to construction and renovation of schools” he added.
Reinforcing this, Dr Niranjan Aradhya, National Law School, Bangalore stated that unless SMCs are taken seriously as the first point of grievance redress and their capability strengthened, education cannot become a universal right and entitlement. He went on to warn the government that if SMCs are not strengthened there is a possibility of government school system collapsing or becoming non-functional and ineffective.
Prof Muchkund Dubey made it clear that “while the passage of the law is a major gain for the nation as it is the cornerstone of any change for the better in achieving the much needed right to education, the reality is that even today by Government’s own admission 6.6 million children or in keeping with figures given by Census 2011, over 8 crores children are out of school.” He went on to lament that “till today none of the top leaders of the present government have publicly committed to implementing the RTE is letter and spirit and they do not understand that if their flagship programme of skilling India has to succeed and go beyond the modest three million beneficiaries, then the educational foundation has to be strengthened.” Not to forget, GDP is fashioned to the extent of 60% by education, so let us not forget its preeminence, he added.
With NCPCR being mandated to do redressal under Section 34 and 35 of RTE Act, Priyank Kanoongo, Member, Education, NCPCR, likened the SMC to the “Soul” of RTE. He exhorted the government to amend section 21 of the Act and authorize monitoring of all private schools, which is thus far not mandated under the present law. Under the Child Labour Act, it has been provisioned that the responsibility of bringing any child who does not attend school for 30 days and more back into the school and preventing drop-out is with the government and every effort should be made to strengthen accountability on this issue.
Since there is a lot of pressure from private schools to manipulate and remove the mandatory clause of 25% admission to children from weaker sections, the RTE Forum in Karnataka demanded that the implementation of this provision be made a social obligation of the private school management and the Rs. 300 crore being allocated to these schools as financial support be allocated for improving government schools.
The Convention highlighted the many positive changes effected by SMCs across the country and discussed ways and measures to plug the gaps.
Speaking on behalf of the SMC members, Asgar Ali, Gandhi Memorial Senior Secondary School, Shahdara, exhorted the government to empower the SMC members and motivate them to work for the improvement of government schools and ensure that they compete fiercely with private schools in reaching out quality education.”
The first national SMC convention was organised after 5 years of the enactment of Act in 2015 for bringing members of SMCs together at National level as well as State level. The purpose was to ensure ownership, management, redressal and monitoring of school functioning by the community, according to the provisions of RTE Act, 2009. At the end of the 2nd SMC Convention, a Delhi Declaration was announced by members of the Forum which emerged from the deliberations during the course of the day. SMC members unanimously adopted the Delhi declaration at the concluding session. It called upon State and Central governments to recognize the critical Constitutional role of the SMCs mandated in the RTE Act in promoting quality equitable education in the schools across the country.
The RTE Forum also resolved that the trend of closing schools (1.5 lakh schools closed) in the name of consolidation and rationalization must be stopped forthwith as it is a violation of the spirit of the law; they also urged the Government to ensure minimum budgetary allocation of 6% of GDP to strengthen public education system and complete implementation of the RTE Act as committed to in the Election Manifesto of the Ruling Party.