State notifies rules; public suggestions incorporated

The State government has finally notified the rules under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

While the notification was published in the Government gazette dated November 12, the rules were displayed in the public domain (www.tn.gov.in) on Tuesday evening.

With this, the State has taken an important milestone in ensuring education for all children between six and 14 years of age. Education activists and civil society were worried about the long delay in notifying the rules, and Tuesday's announcement was a cause for celebration as key provisions of the landmark legislation can now be implemented.

Notifying the rules meant a lot for every stakeholder responsible for a child's education. “It means action will follow on all important points in the Act, something we have been urging for quite some time. It also means filling gaps in the original Act,” said K. Shanmugavelayutham, convener, Tamil Nadu Forum for Creche and Childcare Services (TN-FORCES).

The publication of the rules also means that all children can now claim their right to education. “Without the State notifying the rules, though the Act was in place, the rights could not be claimed by a child,” said Aruna Rathnam, Education Specialist, UNICEF.

After the draft rules of the State government were published, activists, non-government organisations and members of the civil society came forward with suggestions, some of which have been incorporated in the notification.

These include giving more teeth to the School Management Committee and local bodies, defining ‘children belonging to disadvantaged groups and weaker sections' and providing clarity on school mapping, which is essential to identify neighbourhood schools where children can be admitted.

There was some disappointment, however, that the rules do not specify the manner in which schools ought to select students from the disadvantaged groups and weaker sections in their neighbourhood, to the extent of 25 per cent of the strength of their Class I or pre-school, as required under Section 12 of the Act.

At least 20 States have already notified their draft rules, including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan and Delhi.

The notification of the rules would mean that there would be more control over private schools, feel educationists.

Local authority empowered

In the draft rules, responsibilities such as ensuring that children attend school and establishing neighbourhood schools were vested with the ‘Local Education Authority' and the State government. But the rules notified empower the local authority to do so. “This would mean that the power would shift from bureaucrats to local bodies,” said education activist S.S. Rajagopalan.