The Telegraph
Sunday , December 2 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Child rights panel glare on state

Ranchi, Dec. 1: National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has formed a fact-finding team to assess alleged violation of Right to Education (RTE) Act and poor functioning of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) centres in the state.

Based on several complaints, newspaper reports and feedback from commission members visiting the state, NCPCR chairperson has written a strongly-worded missive to chief secretary S.K. Choudhury, expressing concern about basic entitlements under the RTE Act in Jharkhand. The commission also pointed out “serious” issues dogging ICDS in Jharkhand.

Elementary education in Jharkhand suffered heavily during a two-month strike by over 80,000 para-teachers. Moreover, students did not receive textbooks and uniforms at the beginning of the session in April. As mandated by RTE, private schools were also not reserving 25 per cent seats for economically weak and socially disadvantaged students.

The NCPCR fact finding team would comprise Venita Kaul, visiting professor at Ambedkar University, Delhi, Dhir Jhingram, national co-ordinator of NCPCR, Ganesh Reddy, state representative of NCPCR and Shilpa Deshpande, former president of ICICI Foundation for Child Care & Nutrition. The team is likely to visit in the second or third week of December.

Reddy, who has been raising his voice against the abysmal condition of elementary education in the state, said they were informed about the fact-finding team by the Commission’s Delhi headquarters.

According to data available, there exists a number of vacancies for regular teachers, which has resulted in a skewered pupil-teacher ratio in many government schools. In urban centres, it has been found that there are inadequate number of students in some government schools but there are teachers against all sanctioned posts, but in rural areas, there were not enough teachers.

The Centre’s Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, which aims to implement RTE and ensure universal elementary education, has been running without a full-time project director in the state for quite some time.

A recent national survey on status of elementary education put Jharkhand in the 34th position (lowest).

As far as flaws in ICDS is concerned, the Commission has identified them as poor infrastructure in anganwadi centres, unpaid rent of centres in private buildings, lack of availability of paediatric room and first aid etc.

Sources said the objective of the visit would be to meet officials of the state HRD department, visit at least one district and meet civil society representatives to identify the major issues plaguing implementation of RTE in the state.

The team could also discuss with the state the strategy and timeline for resolving some of the big issues related to RTE and ICDS. The team is expected to submit a report to the Commission within 15 days of the visit.