Ink should not be used to mark children who do not attend a school, and youngsters being home-schooled or pursuing open or distance education should not be counted as out of school, a petition filed by education activists on Wednesday has urged.
The plea refers to a Maharashtra state-wide survey set to be carried out on July 4, which aims to identify children who are out of school, so that measures can be taken to enrol them in the formal education system according to the Right to Education (RTE) Act.
Admitted before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court, it was filed by eight education activists.
“No child should be forced to be part of the formal schooling system,” said Sachin Desai, one of the petitioners, who runs an alternative residential school in Sindhudurg.
The petition also pleads that ink not be used to mark the children, as it could stigmatise those not able to go to school.
Additionally, the petitioners have suggested that the counting be conducted in October, for a more accurate picture of the school-going population, as attendance is highest at the beginning of the school year, and children start dropping out after the first few months.
Previously, objections have been raised to the proposal of carrying out such a mammoth exercise in a single day — a concern that the petition also raises.
“It is necessary to ink the kids so that the same child isn’t counted again,” Nand Kumar, principal secretary of the state school education department, told HT.
“Moreover, under the RTE Act, homeschooling is not allowed,” he added.
The court has asked the four respondents named in the petition — two each in the state and central education departments — to present their case within two weeks.
* The state government plans to conduct the survery to find out the number of children who do not attend school
* Children aged between six and 14 who have never been enrolled in a school or have dropped out before completing their elementary education or have remained absent from school for more than 30 days will be considered out-of-school
* The survey will involve civic and district officials, and social workers going door-to-door in slums to count the number of children who are not going to school. Each official will have a target of covering 100 houses a day.
* Within a week of the completion of the survey, the children will be given Aadhar cards and enrolled in the nearest schools.