The Centre for Civil Society has its own campaign this election season.
Its demands are: parents — especially the poorer ones — should be given the right to choose a school for their child. They should also have the option to opt out if the school’s teachers under-perform.
Having started a school voucher programme, which enables poor children to go to a school of their choice, the Centre will now lobby political parties to give millions of parents and students a right to choose their school.
The campaign’s mascots are a pencil and an inked finger. These mascots started greeting candidates and voters at major political rallies in Delhi on Friday. “If we can elect our representatives, why can’t we choose our schools?” is the message voiced by the mascots.
The campaign aims to empower parents who send their children to government schools but can’t hold schools or teachers accountable.
“Poor parents become empowered and involved when they choose the school like middle-class or rich parents,” said the Centre’s President, Parth J Shah.
The school voucher project has already benefited 408 children in Delhi. Parents were given the vouchers — each worth Rs 3,600 — and schools which accepted them were paid by the Society.
“We received over one lakh applications, mostly from parents of government school students. Many were unhappy with either the infrastructure or the quality of teaching. But they could not afford a private school,” said the Centre’s Associate Director Baladevan Rangaraju. The idea was to fund students, not schools, said Rangaraju.
“The Delhi government spends Rs 1,200 — Rs 1,750 per student per month. Annually, the Indian government spends Rs 40,000 crore on education. But most government schools are not accountable to parents,” Rangaraju said.
“If the money was with the parents and they could move their wards out of under-performing schools, most schools would fall in line.”
Parents are happy to support the campaign. “When I was given a choice, I removed my son from the MCD school in Vinod Nagar and sent him to the English-medium Upadhyaya Public School,” said Prem Chand Saxena, a wage earner.
After campaigning in Orissa and Jharkhand, the mascots will now campaign in Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand.