Mahavir Mane, Maharashtra state director for primary education, speaks to HT on the challenges that implementing the RTE act in the state has posed, and how they have been overcome.
The number of out-of-school children has come down significantly over the last few years. What are the challenges in putting the remaining children in schools?
The number of out-of-school children identified by us has come down from more than 2 lakh in 2011-12 to about 75,000 in 2012-13. This is due to the concentrated efforts of the education department in the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and increased awareness through the media.
The problem of out-of-school children is mainly in cities such as Mumbai, because of the large presence of street children who live in difficult conditions. These children need an environment to complete their education, and the number of residential schools in the state is very low. There are more residential schools needed in Mumbai.
Retention of children in schools is another problem. How can the problem of dropouts be addressed?
We have seen that in many schools, names of children are put on the attendance roster, but the children are not in classrooms. We have decided to track all the students on the basis of their Aadhaar cards. Even if the children migrate from one place to another, we will ensure that they enrol in another school by tracking their Aadhaar number.
The RTE Act says that the state is obligated to ensure every child is in school. Can 100% enrolment be achieved?
It is not only the responsibility of the government to put all children in school, but non-governmental organisations, private trusts, and citizens also have a role.
There is also a need for greater coordination between government departments. For example, the labour department can delegate officers to ensure that children of all employees are enrolled in schools.
The child welfare department can ensure that all the children in aanganwadis are put into schools when they reach six years of age. If this is done, 100% enrolment can definitely be achieved.