Schools, a far cry from ideal
There are significant gaps in compliance of the minimum standards in the schools under the Right to Education Act, 2009 that guarantees every child the fundamental right to free, quality elementary education. This came to the fore during an on-ground study conducted by leading child rights NGO CRY (Child Rights and You).
The study entitled ‘Learning Blocks’ that was conducted across 71 districts in 13 states, including UP, tracked the infrastructural gaps in the implementation of the RTE Act. These gaps pertain to school infrastructure, adequate buildings, toilet and drinking water facilities, fencing or boundary walls, pupil teacher ratio and one-classroom-one-teacher practice etc.
The study reveals that 11% schools did not have toilets. Only 18% schools had separate toilets for girls. In 34% schools, toilets were observed to be in bad condition or unusable. Overall, most of the schools did not have separate toilets for girls and boys. Around 49% schools had common toilets for staff and students. It was found that 20% schools did not have availability of safe drinking water. Another 12% schools had source of drinking water (tap/hand pump) outside school premises. The RTE Act makes it mandatory to have a separate kitchen in every school preparing the mid-day meal (MDM) inside school premises. But in 18% schools, the MDM was either not cooked inside a designated kitchen or did not have a kitchen space at all.
Puja Marwaha, CEO CRY says, “One cannot expect children to stay in school without basic infrastructure like safe classrooms, electricity, clean drinking water and functioning toilets. CRY’s experience on-ground points to the fact that the lack of basic infrastructure – especially facilities for drinking water and separate toilets for girls - is one of the key factors that push children out of school.”
What about playground and play materials? Some 63% schools under the study did not have a playground. About 60% sample schools overall reported absence of play materials. Similarly, around 60% schools did not have boundary wall, damaged boundary wall or boundary wall was under construction. The study also shows that 74% schools did not have a library. In schools, which did have a library, around 84% did not have activity books and 80% did not have story and general knowledge books.
As per the findings of the study, only 13% schools provided age appropriate admission. In most of these schools, special coaching or training was provided to the child who received age appropriate admission.’ The child rights NGO has demanded that the act be effectively implemented.