NEW DELHI:While interacting with children at the All India Radio studio on the occasion of International Children’s Broadcasting Day on December 10, 2000, the then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee was asked by a girl about the government’s plan for street kids like her. Vajpayee replied they were trying to take India into a direction where no child remains without an opportunity to study. However, even 15 years later there are 60 lakh out-of-school children in the country.
Those enrolled in school fare just a little better. Even nearly six years after the enactment of the Right to Education Act (RTE), lakhs of school-going children are unable to avail basic facilities such as clean, functional toilets; drinking water; playgrounds; and qualified and trained teachers.
The data, gleaned from reports presented by various ministries in the parliament, paints a bleak picture. The Midday Meal Scheme that provides cooked food for children in schools, is yet to see proper implementation. The National Steering-cum-Monitoring Committee on Midday Meal Scheme (MDMS), in its meeting last week, stressed the need for convergence of health and HRD ministries.
Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani had written to all MPs in April, requesting them to contribute in monitoring the Midday Meal and SSA schemes for improvement in implementation.
Under the MDM scheme, some states are not even paying the cost of food grains to FCI. According to FCI, the total pendency is approximately Rs 340 crore as of February 2015 and the major defaulter states are Jharkhand, UP and Assam.
A large number of schools do not have drinking water. The national-level steering committee on MDMS, observed that even soaps are not available in many schools.
Vrinda Sarup, Secretary (SE&L), in the HRD Ministry, who chaired the steering committee, advised that a norm should be made on the items of expenditure for soaps at the school level.
Many states are lagging behind in infrastructure as per the RTE/ Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) norms, be it comparatively literate states like Chhattsigarh or the laggards like Bihar.
Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are far behind the other states/UTs in all the four components of school facilities: toilets, electricity, water and playground.
Karnataka has the maximum schools (20,197) without a playground followed by Maharashtra (14,745), Tamil Nadu (11,834), Gujarat (9,598), Uttarakhand (8,578), Haryana (3,305), Kerala (2,527), and Himachal Pradesh (2,438). Telangana has maximum number of schools (4,892) without water followed by Uttarakhand (817), Maharashtra (688) and Himachal Pradesh (165).
Maharashtra has maximum number of schools without electricity followed by Uttarakhand, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Similarly with regard to toilet facilities, States/UTs lagging way behind are Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
States are also lagging behind in appointing teachers. After the RTE, up to 2014-15, a total number of 19.85 lakh posts of teachers were sanctioned under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Of this 19.85 lakh sanctioned posts of teachers, States/UTs have reported recruitment of 15.06 lakh teachers’ up to March 2014 leaving almost 6 lakh posts vacant under SSA.