Granting elementary education as a fundamental right to the children of the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday asked the States and Union Territories to work together as part of a common national endeavour.

Addressing the nation to mark the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 that makes elementary education an entitlement for children in the age group of 6-14 years, Dr. Singh said the States should join in this national effort with full resolve and determination.

“Our government, in partnership with the State governments will ensure that financial constraints do not hamper the implementation of the Right to Education Act.

“Today, our government comes before you to redeem the pledge of giving all our children the right to education.

“The health, education and creative abilities of our children and young people will determine the well being and strength of our nation. Education is the key to progress. It empowers the individual. It enables a nation,'' he said.

Reiterating his government's commitment to ensuring that all children irrespective of gender and social category, have access to education, the Prime Minister said education would enable them to acquire the skills, knowledge, values and attitudes necessary to become responsible and active citizens.

Pointing out that success of any educational endeavour was based on the ability and motivation of teachers, Dr. Singh said the implementation of the Right to Education Act was no exception.

“I call upon all our teachers across the country to become partners in this effort. It is also incumbent upon all of us to work together to improve the working conditions of our teachers and enable them to teach with dignity, giving full expression to their talent and creativity.''

He said parents and guardians, too, had a critical role to play having been assigned school management responsibilities under the Act. The needs of every disadvantaged section of our society, particularly girls, Dalits, Adivasis and minorities must be of particular focus as the Act is implemented.

Giving a personal touch, the Prime Minister said he was born in a family of modest means and had to walk a long distance to go to school. “I read under the dim light of a kerosene lamp. I am what I am today because of education and I want every Indian child — girl and boy — to be so touched by the light of education,'' he said.

Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said the biggest challenge to the implementation of the Act would be lack of infrastructure and teachers. Bringing children from the disadvantaged sections into the net would also be challenging, he said.

On some private schools going to court against some provisions of the law, Mr. Sibal said the government would come up with several policies that would help in overcoming opposition.