Public hearing organised by panel

Implementing the Right to Education Act in its entirety will be the way to ensure that children’s rights are not violated, a jury presiding over a public hearing organised in the city by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has said.

The seven-member jury made its recommendations at the conclusion of a two-day event, the focus of which was primarily on implementation of the RTE Act, and issues surrounding non- implementation and consequent impact on the rights of children. This included access to schools and hostels, facilities available in these institutions, regulation of private schools and hostels, sexual abuse and corporal punishment.

Among the specific recommendations are: constituting a monitoring body to regulate the functioning of hostels, drawing up guidelines for conducting enquiry into cases of corporal punishment and sexual abuse of children, running awareness programmes based on these guidelines, conducting an audit of school hostels, and a survey on child marriages in the state. The directions issued by the jury to various departments will have to be implemented in a time-bound manner, Shantha Sinha, chairperson, NCPCR, said at a press conference post the public hearing. While clearly, a concerted approach must be made by all departments concerned – education, police, labour, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare, Social Welfare and Nutritious Meal – Ms. Sinha underlined the need to develop sensitivity while dealing with children’s rights violations.

Children must be treated as children and not adults, she said. In fact, during the public hearing there were depositions from children against whom the police had proceeded under the Criminal Procedure Code, by hiking their age. Another key issue begging attention was the denial of education for children who have been married off. A survey on child marriages must be conducted in the state, and the government must ensure that no child trapped into marriage is denied access to education.

The condition of Adi Dravidar and tribal schools and hostels was highlighted during the public hearing, as was the plight of children studying in unrecognised schools. Local solutions must be found for schools in remote and inaccessible areas, and an audit of the unrecognised schools in the state should be conducted, in an effort to recognise them, or de-recognise them if the requirements were not satisfied. Representatives of the Education department, present at the meeting, agreed to implement the directions within a time-bound period. Implementation of the RTE Act is the fulcrum on which the whole plank of child rights rests, Vasanthi Devi, jury member and educationist, added. Once this is done, all other issues will resolve themselves naturally. Setting up school management committees in each school, as recommended by the RTE Act, would help transfer the authority to the local community, and ensure that they have stakes in seeing that the Act is implemented. The public hearing, in which about 67 cases were heard, was facilitated by the Public Hearing Co-ordination Committee of Civil Society Organisations.