Schools with no ground can make alternate arrangements nearby

In a move that will bring relief to schools strapped for space in big cities, the Ministry for Human Resource Development has relaxed the infrastructural requirement under the Right to Education Act, 2009, that earlier mandated every school to have a playground on its premises.

Henceforth, it would be considered “sufficient compliance” with the legislation if schools make adequate arrangements in an adjoining playground/municipal park for children to play outdoor games in case there is no space on their premises.

In an advisory sent to the States, Vikram Sahay, Director, MHRD, has said that the rule has been relaxed in the light of “genuine difficulties” in providing a playground in each school in big cities due to paucity of open areas.

The District Information System for Education (DISE) data of 2011-12 reveals that nearly 25 per cent of high schools and about 45 per cent of elementary schools in Karnataka do not have playgrounds. The Ministry had received representations from several State governments and school managements expressing their inability to provide playgrounds within schools.

“The intent of inclusion of playground as an infrastructure requirement of a school is to ensure that children have sufficient open space for sports and other physical activities during school hours. It is not necessary that the school management provides this facility within the school premises,” says the advisory on the amended guideline.

‘Realistic’

Education Secretary Kumar G. Nayak described this move as a “realistic” measure considering the constraints on space.

“We will next have to take up mapping of schools and grounds since some of the schools are away from grounds,” he told The Hindu.

However, while conceding that space is an issue in urban centres, education expert Niranjan Aradhya of at the Centre for Child and Law, National Law School of India University, argued that relaxation could mean “diluting the minimum norms of RTE”.

He said while safety of children is one aspect to be considered if they are to be taken outside the school premises, there is also the real danger of private schools operating out of crammed spaces using this as an excuse to not provide space for children to play.

Warning

In a separate advisory, the MHRD has said that governments and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that children belonging to disadvantaged sections are not discriminated against or in any manner prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education.

It says that schools should create a “non-discriminatory environment”, strictly following guidelines laid down under the RTE, to ensure that children admitted under the 25 per cent quota for children from disadvantaged sections are on an equal footing with others in the learning environment.

The circular gives a series of dos and don’ts to create an environment of equal opportunities, including forbidding announcing in a classroom names of castes or communities of students or labelling them as “reserved category”.