The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE) is yet to be enforced in toto in the Union Territory of Puducherry, even as March 31, 2013, was the deadline set by the Central government for the implementation of the provisions of the Act (except Teachers’ training by 2015).
The government of Puducherry published the Puducherry RTE Rules on October 27, 2011, after a direction from the High Court of Madras, while disposing a PIL from P Joseph Victor Raj, State convener, Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL - TN & PY). Since then there has been no mention of the enforcement of the Act either in the Chief Minister’s Address or the Lieutenant Governor’s Address on any occasion so far.
The main provision of the Act— providing 25 per cent seats in unaided private schools (neighbourhood schools), in both pre-primary and primary schools for the children of disadvantaged groups and children from weaker sections of society - is yet to be implemented. The file in this regard has been resubmitted to the government after its vetting by the Law Department, said the Director of School Education (DSE), E Vallavan.
In fact, most of the quality schools are unaided minority institutions and the provision in the RTE Act is not applicable to these schools, say educationists. This is pointed out as the reason for the government’s apathy in the issue. Out of 320 private schools in the UT, 15 are renowned unaided minority institutions like Petit Seminaire HSS, St Patrick HSS, St Joseph of Cluny HSS, Amolarpavam HSS and Fathima HSS, which accommodate nearly 50 per cent of the total students studying in private schools. The government is not keen on securing reservation in the remaining private schools, since it feels that its schools have better standards of education. Implementing this provision of the Act would mean paying up for the students admitted, while on the other hand the strength of the students in government schools would see a further decline.
Only one school, Trinity Blessing Primary School, Mudaliarpet has given 25 per cent reservation under the RTE Act. Among the other 13 parameters to be complied by the schools, playgrounds remain out of bounds. Except a few schools, most private schools and government schools do not have playgrounds. Constraint of vacant land makes it difficult for schools to acquire land for playground.
Of the 785 schools (430 government schools, 35 aided schools and 320 private schools), except 22, all others have a compound. Toilets and water facilities exist in schools, said the DSE, but activists say that toilets are non-functional or are locked. A 12-member school management committee (SMC), another requirement of the RTE Act, has been formed in all schools, said the DSE.