Has the Right to Education Been Realised in Jharkhand?

This article focuses on the status of implementation of various provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act in six tribal-dominated districts in Jharkhand. 

The state of Jharkhand was formed on 15 November 2000. According to the 2011 census, the population of the state was 3.29 crores and the literacy rate was 67.63%. There are 44,835 schools in the state—40,343 are government schools and 4,492 are private schools. Jharkhand adopted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act in 2011 by specifying its own rules and regulations extracted from the original version of the act passed by the parliament. Although the RTE is on the verge of celebrating seven years of completion, its performance and implementation has been poor. 

Many studies and reports have confirmed the poor performance of the act at all levels of schooling. Children belonging to disadvantaged groups—Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and those below poverty line (BPL)—face problems and do not get admission in private unaided schools, despite 25 per cent of seats being reserved for them. It is thus important to analyse the District Information System for Education (DISE) data on the performance of the RTE indicators in different schools located in six tribal-dominated districts of Jharkhand and compare them.

The following objectives are set forth for the study: i) To find out the status of implementation of various provisions of the RTE in schools in both tribal and non-tribal villages in six major tribal districts on the basis of the DISE report; ii) To look into the status of implementation of the RTE provisions in private unaided schools with regard to children belonging to economically and socially weaker sections; iii) To analyse and compare the present status of various provisions of the RTE Act in the schools located in the tribal and non-tribal villages in these districts. 

Methodology 

The study is based on the Unified DISE (U-DISE) and School Report Card (2013–14) of the selected government elementary (both primary and upper primary) and private schools in selected villages of six major tribal districts in Jharkhand—Ranchi, Dumka, Gumla, Lohardaga, Pakur, and Pashchimi Singhbhum on the indicators related to the provisions of the RTE. 

Villages having a higher percentage of tribal population than the state (26.2%) have been selected for study. The schools from villages have been selected randomly. The total number of government schools selected are 92—Ranchi (12), Dumka (20), Gumla (17), Lohardaga (15), Pakur (15) and Paschimi Singhbhum (13). Private unaided schools have been selected as follows: Ranchi district (122), Dumka district (3), Lohardaga district (9), Gumla district (1), Paschimi Singhbhum (2), Pakur district (0).

The RTE Act

The Government of India has implemented several schemes to improve education in the country. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was launched in November 2000 in partnership with states to universalise elementary education. SSA was conceived as a centrally sponsored scheme at the end of the Ninth Five Year Plan to improve the educational status in the country through interventions designed to improve accessibility, reduce gender and social gaps, and improve the quality of learning. 

The RTE Act, 2009 mandates free and compulsory education for all children between six to 14 years of age until they complete elementary education in a neighbourhood school. The act was implemented in most states and union territories on 1 April 2010.

The major areas for improvement listed in the RTE Act are: availability of teaching–learning materials and aids, availability of required number of trained teachers and their continuous and comprehensive evaluation, formation of school management committee, pupil–teacher ratio (PTR), teacher–classroom ratio (TCR), student–classroom ratio (SCR), library, mid-day meals, and incentives for children. The act provides for special training for children who are above six years of age and have not yet been admitted to any school or those who could not complete elementary education due to any reason. These children are to be admitted in a class appropriate to their age. In addition to this, unaided private schools have to compulsorily enrol 25 per cent students from economically and socially weaker sections of society. Some of the other indicators of RTE are concerned with buildings, playground, boundary wall, safe drinking water, and toilets. 

Discussion and Analysis

Status of Teaching Staff

Section 26 of the RTE Act states that, “the appropriate authority, in relation to a school established, owned, controlled or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government or by a local authority, shall ensure that the vacancy of teacher in a school under its control shall not exceed ten per cent of the total sanctioned strength.” 

In this study, not a single school in the chosen districts has the required number of teachers. The data is presented in Table 2.

Formation of School Management Committee 

Section 21(1) of the RTE act states that “A school … shall constitute a School Management Committee consisting of the elected representatives of the local authority, parents or guardians of children admitted in such school and teachers: Provided that at least three-fourth of members of such Committee shall be parents or guardians; Provided further that proportionate representation shall be given to the parents or guardians of children belonging to disadvantaged group and weaker section; Provided also that fifty per cent of Members of such Committee shall be women.”

Section 22(1) states that “Every School Management Committee shall prepare a School Development Plan, constituted under sub-section (1) of section 21, in such manner as may be prescribed.”

Table 3 shows that with regards to School Management Committee (SMC), representation of members, and functioning, except for Ranchi and Paschimi Singhbhum districts, schools located in non-tribal areas are in a better condition compared to the schools located in tribal areas. However, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 outlines that 94.7 per cent schools in Jharkhand have SMCs and meetings were held in almost all the schools where SMC is present (Pratham 2014).

Other Important Indicators of the RTE Act

It is also essential to discuss and analyse some other important indicators such as PTR, SCR, and TCR, special training for children and teachers, and library facility available to them. As per the School Report Card (2013–14) and the RTE norms, the following shall be considered so far as the quality of education is concerned: PTR ≤30 in primary schools, PTR ≤35 at upper primary level, SCR ≤30 in primary schools, SCR ≤35 at upper primary level and TCR ≥1 (Table 4).

It is difficult to compare and analyse the performance of key indicators of the RTE Act in the schools, but the schools located in tribal areas of Gumla and Lohardaga districts have performed well with respect to all the key RTE indicators. The schools located in tribal areas in Pakur district are also in a good condition with respect to these indicators.
 
Incentives under RTE Act

The RTE Act mandates free and compulsory education to all children in government schools. SSA provides two sets of uniforms to all girl students, and SC, ST and BPL students. All children are provided free textbooks up to class 8. A mixed picture of getting these incentives is evident in Table 5. 

Tribal students in these districts (except Dumka) are in a much better position in getting incentives. Very few students get uniforms from schools. Schools located in tribal areas in Gumla and Lohardaga districts are in a better condition than the other four districts, as far as the teaching–learning and play materials are concerned. 

Status of Mid-day Meal

The Mid-day Meal scheme was implemented long ago under the umbrella of the SSA scheme at all the government-run schools. ASER 2014 points out that 83.9 per cent schools in Jharkhand have a kitchen shed and 78.6 per cent schools (those visited by the ASER group) serve food (Pratham 2014). In these districts, many schools do not have a kitchen shed and do not even receive kitchen grants. 

Physical Facilities

As per the RTE Norms and Standards for a school, there needs to be “All weather building consisting of: i) at least one classroom for every teacher and an office-cum-store-cum-Head teacher’s room; ii) barrier-free access; iii) separate toilets for boys and girls; (iv) safe and adequate drinking water facility to all children; (v) a kitchen where mid-day meal is cooked in the school; (vi) playground; (vii) arrangements for securing the school building by boundary wall or fencing.” Table 7 shows the existing physical facilities in the schools covered under this study.

Education in Unaided Private Schools

Since the implementation of the RTE Act in 2011, only 8,231 students from weaker sections (BPL) have been enrolled in different private unaided schools in all the districts of Jharkhand. At the district level, only in Paschimi Singhbhum and Dumka, the targets for these admissions were met and even exceeded. 

In Ranchi district, only 18 schools (14.75%) have implemented this provision. Out of these 18 schools, 10 are located in tribal areas and one school is in a tribal area. Seven schools are in unidentified areas. The more serious issue is that very few schools have admitted the required number of students. In Lohardaga district, only two schools have implemented the RTE provision.

Conclusions

The present study is completely based on the analysis of DISE’s School Report Card (2013–14). The schools located in both the tribal and non-tribal areas have been facing an acute shortage of teachers. In the case of constitution and functioning of SMC, except for Ranchi and Paschimi Singhbhum districts, schools located in non-tribal areas of the other four districts are in a better condition as compared to schools in tribal areas. The study also finds that the tribal students, except in Dumka district, get better incentives. Very few students get uniforms from schools. This discussion also led to the conclusion that schools located at the tribal areas in Gumla and Lohardaga districts are in a better condition as compared to other districts of Jharkhand as far as the teaching–learning materials and play materials are concerned. All schools are in a good position with regard to mid-day meals, but the quality of kitchen sheds in the schools is found to be lacking. The most important provision of 25% reservation for weaker sections has not been applied in majority of private unaided schools.

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