Policy-makers, media and government functionaries have had their say on implementation of the Right to Education Act, but the voices of children in this regard are yet to be heard, Child Rights and You general manager Anita Bala Sharad said here on Thursday.
In an effort to factor in the views of children in the discussions on the RTE, CRY held a press conference in which six children from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh participated.
The children, who have assumed roles of responsibility by leading child right groups in their communities, pointed out the manner in which lack of access to schools and poor facilities in existing schools had hindered their education.
Delhi-based 13-year-old Bano Khan, who is the president of a local children's group, said since there are no good schools close to her home she had no choice but to work.
In an example of how children can be positive agents of change, Kishan Kumar, who is part of a child panchayat in Uttar Pradesh, revealed how his group “stepped in to protest on behalf of a boy living with HIV in the village, whose own adoptive family was discriminating against him…ate and played with the boy and made the elders conscious about their flawed beliefs”.
A visibly proud Chanda narrated how she had fended off her marriage at the age of 15 and also spoken about the manner in which she and the panchayat, of which she is a member, had intervened and tried to protect the rights of others involved in child marriage.
However, a common strand that ran through the children's narratives was the lack of accessible schooling in their neighbourhoods, the need for competent teachers and basic infrastructure in schools.
CRY policy researcher Ajay Sinha said: “Too much attention is paid to numbers and aggregates and not much focus is given to the details. Not many are aware of the real stories. The RTE is a step in the right direction but we need to be bothered about its implementation. Basic concerns about dilapidated buildings, drinking water, leaking roofs and toilets in schools need to be addressed.”
The demands that CRY has put forward include extension of the RTE Act to children under six years and also to the 15-18 years age group, ensuring qualified teachers and availability of schools with proper facilities within 1 km of any habitation, investment in teachers and work with communities to combat gender, caste-based and other discrimination.