RIGHT TO EDUCATION A NON STARTER IN ANDHRA PRADESH -Prof. K Nageshwar
The Right to Education Act came into force in the entire country from April 1, this year. But, Andhra Pradesh government seems to be in a state of inertia as far as implementation of several key recommendations of this act. The state education department has to formulate rules in the state for the implementation of this act as per the model rules issued by central government in this regard. The government has to seek the opinion of all sections of society on the draft rules and promulgate the final rules. But, the final rules have not yet been promulgated in the state even weeks after the feedback was sought from the people. People will get a clarity on the implementation of The Right to Education act only after these final rules are notified.
There is no dearth of ministers in education department in the state. There are as many as six ministers looking after many sectors of education such as primary education, secondary education, Higher Education, technical education, medical education and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Still, the government does not find time to take action on an important central legislation like Right to Education. In fact, the administration in the state is rudely rocked by two important developments. The internal power struggle within the ruling Congress and the movement for separate state of Telangana have taken a heavy toll of public administration in the state. But, fortunately the implementation of Right to Education has no hurdles either from Jagan camp or from Telangana agitation. Still, the government does not act speaking volumes of the lack of political will and commitment. Unfortunately, the political parties and the leadership do not make this a political issue to beat the state government. The unfortunate and helpless children are not a vote bank for political parties. In fact Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of leading in the incidence of child labour and lagging behind the national average in the literacy rate. Andhra Pradesh is the most educationally backward state in the South India. Therefore, the state should lead in the implementation of Right to Education, but, the reality appears to be otherwise.
The right to education act stipulates provision of one teacher per 30 students at primary stage and one teacher per 35 students at secondary stage. The unofficial estimates suggest that the state government requires to appoint at least another one lakh teachers if this act has to be implemented in its true spirit. But, the state government claims that there are no vacancies even as per the notification also. The appointment of teachers is inordinately delayed. Contrary to the spirit of the right to education, thousands of schools in the state are still run by Para teachers who are called vidya volunteers. Rights can not be enforced by volunteers. The right to education calls for providing quality education and appointment of trained teachers in all the schools even including the private schools. But, the government schools are running with Para teachers. How can government make private schools adhere to the norms set out in the Right to Education act.
The implementation of Right to Education is supervised by an apex authority called National Commission for Protection of Child Rights at the all India level. Similar state level commission should be appointed to supervise the implementation of this act. This commission should be headed by a High Court judge or equally eminent educationist. The experts in different fields should be appointed as members in this commission. In case appointment of such a commission is delayed, Right to Education Protection Authority should be set up. The state government has not yet shown ay initiative in this regard too. One can understand political compulsions in cabinet expansion. But no such problems are encountered in regard to the appointments under Right to Education.
The Right to Education act bans all kinds of entrance tests for admission to schools and collection of donations for admissions. Despite this stipulation in the act which is the result of a constitutional amendment, the officials simply do not bother about this vital provision . But, the government cancelled entrance test in the residential schools run by government. This resulted in a situation that threatens the very foundations of residential system. The residential schools were set up by state government for the meritorious poor students. This system produced very good results till now. But, thanks to Right to Education act, now admissions are made by lottery . But, the private schools continue the practice of entrance tests. Several such key provisions of Right to Education Act are not yet given a serious consideration by the state government.