The decision of the Manohar Parrikar-led Goa government to implement the Right to Education (RTE) Act-2009 in the State, from the forthcoming academic year - commencing from next month, is praiseworthy. The implementation of the Union Government enacted important educational legislation had suffered an inordinate delay of two years due to lack of interest on the part of the previous State government in enforcing setting up of necessary infrastructure required under certain major provisions of the RTE Act. However, the present Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar, said that his government will go ahead in notifying the ‘RTE Act’ by May-end, so that its implementation begins in the State from coming academic year.
Goa is one of the few states, which is yet to notify the BTE Act. Given that Goa had three years to implement the RTE Act, and considering that the legislation was notified by the Union Government on April 1, 2010, the present State government finds itself racing against time to meet the deadline in 2012-13, since the previous government had held back several major provisions of the Act for the final year of the deadline.
In fact, the State has now been left with no other option, but to notify the RTE Act and implement its provisions, as the legislation’s implementation deadline expires with the forthcoming academic year 2012-13.
The recommended seven-and-half hours of schooling is among the provisions for which the State government was not prepared for the academic year 2011-12. The RTE Act calls for necessary infrastructure in schools, including an all-weather building with at least one classroom for every teacher and an office for the head teacher. A separate toilet for girls and boys, a playground and a library for every school with sufficient reading material are among some of the basic requirements that have been recommended.
The ground reality in Goa is that although over 80 per cent of schools offer toilet facility, only 50 per cent primary schools in the state have provision of an independent toilet for its girl students. More than 60 per cent of primary schools in Goa do not have playgrounds, one of the worst figures in the Country. Libraries, on the other hand, are a far cry when nearly 23 per cent primary schools in rural Goa function from a single classroom and over 50 per cent with only two classrooms. In urban Goa, 47 per cent schools operate from either one or two classrooms.
The RTE (right of a child to free and compulsory education) Act also requires not just comprehensive, continuous evaluation of the child as a method that is presently being prepared in the state for implementation, but the legislation calls for introduction of activity-based learning as well. Even as the Goa government has been struggling for over three years now to regulate pre-primary education in the State, the RTE Act requires that states should provide free preschool education to children from the age of three to six years as preparation for school education.
So far, whatever spoken of RTE Act implementation, much has been said over the medium of instruction and full-day schooling in Goa, but there has been no mention of a database record that the state is required to prepare of children up to the age of 14 years within the state’s boundaries. A mechanism also needs to be put in place to monitor the enrolment, attendance and completion of elementary education by each child in Goa.
Recently, the Supreme Court of India has issued certain directives, including that all the states across the Country uniformly uphold the Constitutional validity of the RTE Act-2009 and its provision, which calls for 25 per cent reservation of seats for poor children up to the age of 14 years in government and private, aided and unaided schools (except unaided minority schools). All the government and private aided and unaided schools will have to strictly implement the provision of the Act as directed by the Apex Court, for the welfare of poor and needy children in the state. The State’s Education Department will have to oversee the implementation of the RTE Act as per the direction of the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, officials of the Goa Education Department have started community awareness and mobilization programme in the state under the ‘Shiksha Ka Haq Abhiyan’(Right to Education Campaign) a Union Government initiative to popularize the RTE Act, was flagged off from Mewat district of Haryana on November 11, 201I, which is observed as the ‘Education Day’ in the Country. According to the state’s Education Department authorities, even though the RTE Act-2009 is in force for the last two years, there is still not much public awareness on its provisions, hence the ‘Shiksha Ka Haq Abhiyan’ has been formulated to create the much needed awareness of people, school authorities and other prominent members of civil society associated with education.