With abysmal toilet facilities, no wheelchair access and sometimes no compound wall either, schools ignore March 31 ultimatum
When the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 was brought into force, schools across the country were directed to upgrade their infrastructure and adhere to the pupil-teacher ratio as part of the norms and standards laid down in the Act.
But, a large number of schools in the city appear to have missed the March 31, 2013 deadline set by the Union government. Worse, quite a few school managements were not even aware of the infrastructure requirements mandated by the Act. When The Hindu spoke to G. Latha, headmistress of the J.J. Convent in Kamalanagar here, she said that she was unaware of the norms and standards.
No compound wall
The Hindu visited some private unaided schools, aided schools and government schools over the last week and found that several schools don’t meet the infrastructure requirements. Little Flower High School in Srirampuram is one tall building housing 2,700 students studying from LKG, primary, middle and high school. Though the structure appears imposing, it lacks a compound wall, something listed as one of the infrastructure requirements.
When asked, principal Madhusudan Babu said that the site was very small and there was no space to construct one. Reacting to a query on the absence of a ramp to facilitate barrier-free access in schools, he dismissed it by saying there were no students with disabilities in the school.
Similarly, the Government Model Primary School in Kamalanagar too does not have a compound wall. As the school is situated at an elevated level, children playing outside the classroom are at risk of coming precariously close to the steep incline, which ends in a dump yard. To this, a teacher said that the government had sanctioned only Rs. 19,000 for the construction of a compound wall and the amount was not sufficient.
Toilets are a problem
A sample study conducted in 90 schools across nine districts by the RTE Task Force, an NGO, revealed that many schools did not have ramps, library building and compounds. Gangadhar Reddy N., who was part of the study, said that although many schools had different blocks of toilets for girls and boys, they are not adequate for the number of students.
Many were dirty and unusable. Also, he said supply of water in toilets was a major concern in schools in Kolar and Bangalore (Urban).
The situation was the same in Government Model Primary School in Kamalanagar that has different toilet blocks for boys and girls. But these facilities were dirty and did not have adequate water facility. “We don’t use the toilets here. We wait till school is over and go home and use the toilet,” said a Class 6 girl student.
‘State is doing better’
Commissioner for Public Instruction S.R. Umashankar admitted that a large number of schools don’t have ramps and playgrounds. “We need to focus on these issues,” he said, before claiming that Karnataka was doing better than most other States in terms of libraries, toilets and drinking water facility.
Even as some States had appealed to the Union government to extend the March 31 deadline, Union Human Resource Development Minister M.M. Pallam Raju made it clear there would be none and that a committee would be set up to monitor the implementation.
Notice to schools
As per section 19 (3) of the RTE Act, if schools failed to fulfil the norms and standards within the deadline, authorities can withdraw their recognition.
Further Section 19 (5) of the Act states that “any person who continues to run the school after the recognition is withdrawn shall be liable to fine which may extend to Rs. 1 lakh and, in case of continuing contraventions, to a fine of Rs. 10,000 for each day during which such contravention continues.”
Asked about what action the State government would initiate after April 1, Mr. Umashankar said that notices would be sent to all recalcitrant school managements before the beginning of the next academic year.
“Next year we will carry out a detailed assessment and put pressure on the schools to comply with the norms,” he added.
But there’s a catch
However, sources in the Education Department pointed out that while the department has mechanisms to monitor government schools, it has almost no control over the “powerful private schools lobby”.