While the whole nation has displayed ample growth in terms of kids’ enrollment to primary schools, there are still few leaks in the system with Telangana projecting the most concerning state. The Right to Education Act (RTE), established by the central government states that a child between 6 to 14 years of age has a right for free and compulsory education. The Act was enacted on 4 August 2009, coming into force on 1 April 2010. The Act clearly states that it’s the duty of respective state government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child.
A shocking figure revealed during a hearing in the Supreme Court mentioned that there are as much as 398 schools in Telangana which have registered Zero enrollment in the academic year 2015-16. Now the question arises, where is the problem? Obviously, there is something missing in the efforts of state government which led to this situation. Are state-run schools not providing the quality education which every parent seeks for their child? All the questions point fingers towards the role of state government.
Apparently, it’s not new for Telangana. Last year, over thousands of letters reached the apex court, written by students and parents from some of Telangana villages. They sought the court’s interference in the ongoing scarcity of teachers in government schools. As per the records, there are 26,050 government schools in the state with a sanctioned strength of 1,12,692 teachers. The average strength of teachers resides at 4 to 5 teachers per school. If there are no teachers or a poor teacher-student ratio, quality education can never be expected. The low or Zero enrollment also cites the absence of infrastructure and poor teaching standards in state-run schools.
A report released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development mentioned that around 8.1 million children pertaining to age group 6-14 remain out of school. The report also represented big shortage of teachers country-wide.
Central government ensures 70 percent funding to respective state governments to ensure the implementation of RTE Act, while state governments are left with bearing only 30 percent of the total expenses. For North-Eastern states, central government and state governments share the expenses in a ratio of 90 to 10. The funding pattern followed is good if not great, but still the schools are failing the major objective of RTE act.
Education activists claim that the registered failure of RTE act is mainly because of lack of quality education in government-run schools. It is to be noted here that government schools form over 80 percent of all recognised schools and still the parents prefer private schools over government ones. One hypothetical fact pops up here that children attending the private schools are seen to be at an advantage as compared to their counterparts studying in government schools.
Another report mentioned that around 54 percent urban children attend private schools and the enrollment in private schools is growing at 3 percent per year. Even poor children are avoiding government schools owing to shortage of teachers.
Recently, petitions were filed by J K Raju and others in the Supreme Court to seek directions for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana state governments for taking steps to fill vacant teachers’ posts in government schools. The apex court bench, comprising of Justice Deepak Mishra and Justice Keerthi Singh, was hearing the petitions.
It was during the hearing that the figures opened stating there are total 18,139 primary schools run by Telangana government and shockingly 398 of them don’t have even single student. Other 980 schools have 1 to 10 registered students while some 2,333 schools are running with just 11 to 20 students. The Nalgonda district is the worst hit with 109 schools having zero enrollment. Other districts follow as, Warangal with 86 schools, Karimnagar with 64 schools, Mahbubnagar with 45 and Adilabad with 36 such schools.
The bench criticized the role of Telangana government for not following the implementation of RTE act and said, “An educational institution without having a pupil is like existence of an individual without health, or to put in a different manner, life without essence or purpose of living. Right to education has been made a fundamental right. It is the obligation of the State to see that the children between 1 to 14 years of age are imparted education.”
The Judges also called for efforts from state government to generate enthusiasm, cultivation of spirit and interest for education among parents to send their wards to school. It said, “The parents do have the responsibility to send the children to school but the State has the primary duty to create an atmosphere of faith so that the people at large believe that their children are going to be properly educated.”
The bench sought clarification from the state government for zero enrollment in these schools. The Court also asked the Amicus curiae Ashok Gupta to visit these schools with an advocate of the Telangana Parents Federation to prepare a report on why the schools did not register any enrollment. It demanded the report within 4 weeks, to be followed by next hearing on May 10.
In response, the state government said that there was greater migration from government to private schools as the parents demand English medium education for their children which is not available in government schools. It also mentioned that the age of enrollment in government schools is 5 plus, while private schools allow admission to students of 3 plus age.
Given all the reasons, one thing that is very tough to digest is that the governments spend huge amount of public money on schools and what they get in response is Zero enrollment.