Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An open letter to the Prime Minister
RTE gives only the right to schooling, 
not right to education to these children

Respected Hon’ble Prime Minister,

On 15th August 2015,  we will be celebrating 69th Independence Day.   It is the time to celebrate, pay tributes to all heroes who got us this precious freedom and to rededicate ourselves for the development of India.  On this occasion, we would like to highlight a problem which has remained a hurdle in the path of development of our nation.  We also offer a possible solution to remove this hurdle!

Natural resources and human resources are two vital ingredients required for the development of any nation.  Fortunately India has both in abundance.   Education is the tool to transform normal human beings into human resource.  Every educated Indian with values is an asset to India in particular, and to the world at large. Keeping this in mind, ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act’ (RTE) was formulated.   But, ‘Is this Act giving Right to education to all children? Or is it giving only right to schooling?   With the examples of 3 children, we are writing this letter to you.  We request you to read and act.

Example 1:  
Name of the boy is Prajwal and his age is 11 years.  The boy’s father is not alive. Boy’s mother lives with her child in a small house.  Mother rolls Agarbathis and works as a domestic help for a living.  Seeing the plight of the lady, house owner comes forward to sponsor Prajwal’s education.  So Prajwal joins a private Kannada medium school. 

Mother loves her son very much.   Though she is an illiterate, she determines to give good education to her son.  She takes care to see that her son goes to school regularly.  The boy passes 5th standard and enters 6th standard.   In spite of this, boy’s academic level is found to be at 2nd standard.   Mother is not aware of this fact.  Is the child mentally retarded?  No, the boy’s IQ is 100.  Is this boy dyslexic? No.  According to the clinical psychiatrist of All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, teachers’ pace of teaching should match the pace of learning of the child.  But, where is such a school?

Example 2:
Sattwik is a 15 year old boy.  (Name changed) He is a student of 9th standard in a reputed English Medium school in Mysore. Both his parents are educated.  Father is a Government employee.  Parents belong to an economically middle class family.  Sattwik’s parents own a car.  Sattwik is their only child.  But unfortunately, Sattwik could not cope up with the rigour of the mainstream schools.  He always used to lag behind in studies.  The child was subjected to humiliation at the school. Concerned parents changed the school twice.  But it was not useful.   Is the boy mentally retarded? No.  He is bright.  As per the report of the clinical psychiatrist of All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, his IQ is 100. But his academic level is at 1st standard.  The child is dyslexic. (learning disability)  Where is the school for this boy to learn?

Example 3:
The name of the girl is Maheshwari.  [Name changed]  She stays in a slum on the outskirts of Mysore city.  Father is an alcoholic addict.  Both the parents of Maheshwari are illiterates.  The atmosphere at home is not at all congenial for studies.  Father does not stay with the family always; some days he comes home.   Mother often becomes a victim of domestic violence and the child, a silent spectator to this violence.  Maheswari studies in three Government schools and finally bids good bye to school.  She works as a child labour in Bengaluru, first as a child care taker and secondly as a domestic help for two years.  She does not like both the jobs, comes home and starts helping her mother.   Thanks to the effort of her relative, she again joins a free hostel run by an NGO and joins another Government school, only to drop out after a few months.   Now Maheshwari is 13 years old.  She does not have any educational documents like Transfer certificate or progress report.  She does not have birth certificate either.   But another NGO spots her and decides to build her future by admitting her into a school.  But where is the school for this girl to learn?

As per RTE Act, this child can join any age-appropriate standard in any Government school, free of cost.  So this child can join 8th standard in a mainstream school.  But is it possible for the child to understand lessons?  If the girl is integrated with other 8th standard children, is it possible for the teachers to teach alphabets and numbers to this girl?  Will the child not drop out from this school also, unable to comprehend the lessons?

Mainstream education system expects all children to learn a predetermined textual content within a stipulated period, in a certain way and at a predetermined pace.  As long as children learn happily this way, there is no problem. When this does not happen, problems crop up.   When a child cannot learn, she/he loses interest in the class, starts indulging in cross-talking.  This disturbs the teacher’s concentration.  An agitated teacher fails to do justice to her/his profession.  Lacking in prerequisites, the child fails to understand subsequent lessons.  This has a cascading effect.   Such a child either drops out of the school or remains in the school out of compulsions.  Teachers are pressurized to promote such children also to the next higher standards, irrespective of the children’s success in learning.  This practice, which is in vogue, has deprived such children of learning.
It is alarming to note that more than 50% of the children who are attending rural schools are suffering from a minimum 3 years of academic lag.  As per Annual Status of Education Report 2014, 51.9% of the 5th standard children are not in a position to comfortably read 2nd standard mother tongue text book; 73.93% of the children cannot do a simple 3 digit by one digit division sum.  RTE Act gives them Right to schooling; will it give these children Right to learn?   So we request you to amend this Act suitably so that each child gets an opportunity to learn.  A new education system should come into force which reaches out to these ‘OUT OF SCHOOL/SYSTEM CHILDREN’ also.

Presently all the three children are learning in our free non-formal school along with 100 more children.  Our school works on the philosophy, ‘school for CHILDREN, rather than ‘children for SCHOOL’.  Two of the children cited as examples are preparing to face the coveted 10th standard public examinations, this year.  We are trying to create a successful education model for such ‘OUT OF SCHOOL/SYSTEM CHILDREN’ through this school.   A new education system is evolving here! The Hon’ble Education Minister of Karnataka has already instructed the Commissioner, Department of Public Instructions to take necessary steps to grant recognition to this school.  We are eagerly waiting for the recognition.  So there is a possible solution to this problem.    

We hope, this letter catches your positive attention and your Government takes suitable steps to amend the RTE Act, so that it becomes a Right to Education Act in a true sense. We listen to your ‘Man ki baath’.  We also request you to listen to ‘Hamara (common man’s) man ki bath’ and opportunity deprived children’s man ki bath.  We cordially invite you to our school, located in a village.  Jai Hind!

M.R. Ananth Kumar

P.S.: To view  scholastic documents of  children, click on the link below:

To know special features of Kaliyuva Mane education system, click on the link below:

To read Education Minister’s letter, click on the link below: