Parents across the country rejoiced when the Right to Education Act came into effect in April, 2010. However, many realised that there were still lot of bumps on the road ahead. Attempting to fill the information gap between the system and parents, and within the system, Centre for Civil Society (CCS) and Central Square Foundation (CSF), think tanks on education, have launched an >online portal which is a one-stop source for all information on the Act.
Work began on the e-portal in March 2010, almost shoulder to shoulder with the progression of the Act. It is equipped with all the latest developments on the subject, including the Act itself, rules and notifications on it, information on parliamentary debates, criteria for eligibility of schools to be enlisted under the RTE, comparison of the status of the Act in different states, 25 per cent reservations in private schools for children under the EWS category and the like.
The portal was formally launched last week at FICCI. Prior to which, the team at CCS was taking its queries on its helpline number wherein they received almost 10-12 calls per day from across the country from parents, schools wanting to comply by the Act and also from government bodies which wanted to implement the Act in the schools under its jurisdiction.
According to Abhishek Bhattacharya (policy expert at CCS), most of the recent queries have been about the 25 per cent reservation in private schools for children belonging to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category. “A woman from Pune called us to inquire about how to admit her maid’s son in a private school under the 25 per cent quota. We helped her with the procedure and informed her about the redressal mechanism in case of harassment. Today the child is admitted in one of Pune’s best private schools. As the news about the child’s admission spread in the neighbourhood, she helped many others with the procedure to get their children admitted to private schools”, said Abhishek.
Many State bodies have already aligned themselves to the website, and are sharing their data with them. Although Ashish Dhawan (CEO, CSF) admitted it may be because “they (State authorities) thought that it was a Government of India site”.
The portal and the helpline also advise parents and schools on where to file complaints, and also help government bodies on how to best address the complaints. The portal has a section for grievance redressal wherein anyone can register a complaint with them regarding the Act. The team compiles these complaints and formally registers them at the right office, department, which is in-charge of addressing the issue and decides whether to involve the NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) or the State Commission (SCPCR). This facility can avoid parents and schools from getting lost in the huge bureaucratic vortex.
The portal seeks to instil better governance in schools and increase information among schools and parents. For instance, many schools are not aware of the grants that they are entitled to, which is reflective of information gaps within the system.
Going forward, the portal plans to become a wholesome platform for organisations, aided and non-government, which are working in the education sector to interact and discuss how to best employ concentrated efforts in the direction of quality education for all. It also plans to put up best teaching practices that can be employed in schools to better teach the students, suggest ways for parents to effectively be a part of Schools Management Committees and participate in the functioning of schools.