JSCPCR chairperson Rooplakshmi Munda (centre), member Sanjay Kumar Mishra (to her left) and East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Himani Pande during the RTE meeting at the district collectorate in Jamshedpur on Tuesday. (Bhola Prasad)
There’s a 13-day countdown for state-run East Singhbhum middle and primary schools to set things right, if one is to go by the diktat of Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (JSCPCR).
East Singhbhum has failed the Right to Education (RTE) Act litmus test, said top officials of Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (JSCPCR) at a district collectorate meeting in Jamshedpur on Tuesday.
The state commission, with NGO Plan India, had in January surveyed schools across twin Singhbhums, Hazaribagh, Khunti, Deoghar and Garhwa based on RTE guidelines and tabulated its findings in February.
Barring midday meal, East Singhbhum has fared miserably on almost all counts, the survey revealed. Only 40 per cent of students in primary and middle schools are regulars, 30 per cent come and go. Only 35 per cent disabled children go to school. Only 15 per cent schools have benches for all children, while 75 per cent cradles lack a boundary wall. About 48 per cent schools don’t have playgrounds.
But while the magnitude of failings is shocking, the deadline given to remedy whatever is possible is also unrealistic — March 25, 2013.
JSCPCR chairperson Rooplakshmi Munda and member Sanjay Kumar Mishra, who presented the report before deputy commissioner Himani Pande, district education officer Ashok Kumar Sharma, district superintendent of education Abhay Shanker and school management committee members and others, justified the hurry, citing the central deadline of March 31, 2013.
But when shockers cover almost every aspect of the schooling system, the 13-day makeover becomes a bit of a joke.
What the district can do by March 25 remains to be seen. But the survey — in East Singhbhum, four blocks Chakulia, Musabani, Jamshedpur and Potka were covered — revealed deep-rooted problems in enrolment and retention, infrastructure, community participation, quality of teaching, inclusiveness and others.
“Jharkhand paints a very dismal picture of how the RTE Act is implemented. If we compare ourselves to advanced states such as Gujarat and Delhi, we are nowhere. The Centre has given a deadline of March 31 to ensure all schools follow RTE mandates. We have asked officials to complete the work within March 25. Otherwise, action will be taken against officials concerned,” Mishra said.
“Why will a child come to school if there is no playground?” he asked, pointing out basic problems. District officials, meanwhile, are citing snags in fund allocation.
“We have tried our best. But there are too many fund-intensive requirements,” said deputy commissioner Pande.
“We face serious problems where fund allocation is concerned. Though we include basics in our budget, we don’t get funds on time. We had included benches in the budget, but they weren’t approved,” said Prakash Kumar, additional district programme officer.
No one can take high moral ground. According to the RTE Act, private schools, compelled to admit BPL children, are supposed to get Rs 5,200 per child per year. But the district neither received the news nor the money. “We admit there are loopholes. The state also released funds for the district under some heads just 20 days ago. We will take up the issue with higher authorities,” said JSCPCR chairperson Munda.
What can East Singhbhum district officials accomplish in 13 days?