Monday, 22 April 2013



A fledgling system of foster care is offering new hope for homeless children


Raja is in the sixth standard, but he looks about 11. As we enter the small house, in a bylane in Chamarajpet, he greets us excitedly. He then helps his foster father Nagesh, a tempo driver, arrange plastic chairs in the small living room, and his foster mother serve payasam.


Raja lived in an NGO institution for street children for six years before he was placed in foster care. Has he ever wanted to go back? “No, I want to stay at home,” he says, clinging to his “appa.”


When a social worker had asked him a couple of months ago what kind of a home he would like to go into, he replied: “The house should be grand and should have a swimming pool.” The very idea of a home was fantastical to him.


“These kids have never seen a home. It is something imaginary to them and they have unrealistic ideas,” says Ann Mary, a counsellor with BOSCO, the NGO that rescues street children and places some in foster care.


Raja is among 19 lucky children from there who have found foster homes. BOSCO started the foster care project last year, after getting the necessary clearances.


Radha Srinivasamurthy, Chairperson, Child Welfare Committee, Bangalore (Boys), of the Government of Karnataka, is all for the foster care programme.


“It definitely helps children,” she told Talk. “In India, we have traditionally had a kinship system, where relatives take care of a child. Foster care is similar to that. It wasn’t successful earlier, but now more people are coming forward as foster parents. When adoption was introduced in India, people were reluctant. But now adoption is widely accepted. We hope foster care will also become successful in a similar way.”


According to Milan Mandanna, co-ordinator of BOSCO’s Foster Care Project, “These kids are older than they look. Some may be 14 or 15 and look like 10 year olds.” She quotes from a study which says that it’s not just malnourishment but also lack of love and emotional attachment that has made them physically underdeveloped.


Some of the children are orphans, some abandoned by their families, and some others about whom nobody knows anything. Many have been rescued either begging, rag picking or working as child labourers.


Unlike in adoption, children do not become legal heirs when placed in foster care. Foster homes could take in children for a short duration, even just a few months, or till the child is 18 years old. Parents can choose to foster them even after that. There have been cases in other parts of the country where foster parents have even arranged marriages, and stayed in touch. After short term care, foster parents continue to be mentors and meet them regularly. In a way, they remain foster parents forever.


“We provide foster homes for a short duration, so that children can know what a family is, and then decide if they want to move into a family,” says Milan. Families can also provide vacation foster homes, for a couple of days. “But here the condition is that the family agrees to be a mentor for the child. Even after the vacation they should regularly visit the child,” she adds.


When BOSCO started with the foster care project last year, it had to face several bureaucratic hurdles. Many mistook it for adoption. Government departments asked them what it was all about.


“We later found that Karnataka had made guidelines for foster care in 1995, but everyone had forgotten about them. These guidelines helped us start off,” says Milan.


The foster care system also helps couples who seek to adopt children. People prefer to adopt children who are very small. BOSCO Mane has children above six years. “Families which haven’t been lucky to find a child can foster a child. If the family and child continue to be interested, we can later help the families become legal guardians,” she says.


BOSCO first tries to find their families, then they ask the relatives. When nothing works out, they look for foster homes.


One of their first children to be placed in a foster home was eight-year-old Vishnu (name changed.) Vishnu was a rag picker in Tirupati when he was rescued, and was brought to Bangalore since he said that he had lived here. At BOSCO Mane he said that his family lived in Tirupati. BOSCO Foster Care’s social mobiliser Raju KN went to Tirupati with him.


After searching in several localities they found his mother. She had married again and had children from her new husband. “When we reached there, her husband asked who the child was. He was not even aware that Vishnu existed,” says Raju. His mother refused to take him. After her first husband’s death, Vishnu’s mother had abandoned all her six children, their whereabouts unknown.


BOSCO traced Vishnu’s father’s distant relatives in Bangalore. One of them, Velumurugan, a security guard, is now fostering Vishnu. His biological son, who is studying in PUC, and his daughter, who is in the ninth standard, have accepted him as their kid brother.


“When I told them about Vishnu, they were glad to have him home,” says Velumurugan. Since Vishnu had lived on the streets, he would sometimes crave for the “freedom” of street life and bunk school. “We warned him that we would send him back to the ashram, and he mended his ways,” says the foster father.


If the foster families are not well off, BOSCO also offers financial help for the upbringing of the child. “We ensure the language and cultural backgrounds match. We also secure a no-objection letter from the biological children in the foster families who are older than six years,” says Shaffiq Jalalpasha, a social mobiliser with BOSCO.


In the case of eight-year old Suhail (name changed), the family wanted another son. “We have one son and two daughters. We wanted another son, so we fostered Suhail,” says Shabana Banu, a homemaker whose husband works in an agarbatti factory.


Her biological children too were happy to have a new brother. The family initially faced adjustment problems, but all seems to be fine after three months. “He wouldn’t listen to me and would answer back to the older kids. Now, he has settled in well,” she says. He regularly attends school as well as Arabic classes.


The greatest moment for Suhail was when the school results were out recently. It was not because he scored well, but because, for the first time, he had a mother who came with him to receive his report card.


“He took me to all his friends and introduced me as his Ammi,” says Shabana. She too felt appreciated when the teachers told her that Suhail had improved a lot when compared to the time he was in the institution. “A teacher said that he studies well and comes neatly dressed,” she says beaming.


Being accompanied by a parent on the day of the results means a lot to these children. “When we go on results day from BOSCO Mane, there is one aunty with 10 of us behind her. She goes from class to class collecting report cards. Now Amma comes only with me,” says 13-year-old Austin (name changed).


“They crave personal attention, which isn’t available in an institution with about 90 children,” explains T Bhagyalakshmi, a counsellor with BOSCO. The foster home has brought visible changes in Austin’s life. When his school teacher complained that his notes were incomplete, Austin’s foster mother Shobha stayed up till 1 am and made him complete his school work.


Shobha and her husband Nagesh, a driver, have volunteered to provide a group foster home. They have opened their home to four children, who will live with them till they find a long term home. Like in all families, there were initial skirmishes, including arguments over which TV programmes to watch. They have now settled down.


Earlier, the children would simply pour water on their heads and say that they had bathed. Now, Shobha ensures that they actually bathe daily and wear fresh clothes. Right from cooking for them to washing their clothes, Shobha does everything with a smile. “They are my sons,” she says. She has a biological son and a daughter.


Ajit can’t stop raving about Shobha’s cooking. “In BOSCO Mane we got the same kind of food. Here, Amma cooks new dishes and makes whatever we like,” he says.


Three children in Shobha’s house have already found long-term homes and will be going away soon. One of them, who hasn’t yet found a home, asked his counsellor, “Aunty, how long will you take to find me a home?”


Ann says she faces these questions regularly from children in institutional care. “They all want to see what a home is,” she says.


People think foster care is a Western concept. Milan refutes this. “Traditionally in India, if a child lost his parent, the extended family, neighbours or friends would look after the child. With nuclear families, this concept is lost,” she says.


Most of the families coming forward to foster children belong to lower social backgrounds. “We have a scientist and a bank manager who have now come forward. We hope more people open their homes to these children,” she says.


Dr Meena Jain, psychotherapist and chairperson, Child Welfare Committee, Bangalore (Girls), says foster care works very well, and helps enhance the psychological well-being of a child.



“In my 27 years of working with children, I have often heard children with no parents ask me when they will go home. I hate that,” she told Talk.


She says NGOs should do a thorough background check of the families, as sometimes there is a risk of the kids being used for work. Proper counselling and mental preparation of both foster parents and children is required. “For example, the child could suddenly feel that he or she is being corrected for his mistakes and being disciplined, and resist that,” she said.


Sheila Devaraj, Director, Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), who has placed nine children in group foster care and has plans to place children in individual foster homes soon, says there are no clear rules in India yet, but the system is gaining more acceptance.


Sr Dulcine Crasta, Coordinator, Child Protection Committee (UNICEF), Department of Women and Child Development, says some guidelines are being drawn up, and efforts are on to bring in a government scheme for foster care.


“With legalisation, we hope more people will come forward to foster children. It will need a lot of motivation for families to come forward. For adoptions, we have a long waiting list of parents. But for foster care, we have a long list of children but not many parents. We need a strong will from the government, involvement of NGOs and awareness among people,” she told Talk.


We asked 12-year-old Sanjay (name changed) another boy in foster care, what the main difference was between his new home and his old institution. He said, “If I fell there, aunty would take me to the medical room and apply medicines on my wound. Here, if I fall, Amma hugs me first.”

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

61.7 million Indian children 'stunted': UN report

By Shawn Pogatchnik | AP - DUBLIN

16th April 2013 11:00 AM

·         Photos


Young Indian children eat at a malnutrition rehabilitation center run by a non-governmental organization Apnalaya in Mumbai. (AP photo)

The United Nations Children's Fund says more than a quarter of children under the age of 5 worldwide are permanently "stunted" from malnutrition, leaving them physically and intellectually weak and representing a scandalous waste of human potential.

Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF since 2010, said organized provision of vitamins and clean water and a focus from birth on breastfeeding could have helped these 165 million children achieve normal brain and body development. But their lack of proper nutrition means instead they will suffer increased vulnerability to illness and early death.

"Stunting is the least understood, least recognized and least acted upon crisis. It is a hidden crisis for these children," said Lake, a veteran U.S. diplomat who was national security adviser to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Lake said the failure to give children enough Vitamin A, iron and folic acid when developing in the womb, and a balanced diet with clean drinking water in the first 2 years of life, doomed most of them to being anchors on their impoverished societies.

"Stunted doesn't mean simply short," Lake told The Associated Press in an interview. "The child's brain never properly develops. Irrevocably. That's it. You can't fix it later. You can fix being underweight. You can't fix being stunted after age 2."

Lake was in Dublin to unveil the findings in a report at a global conference focused on combating hunger and malnutrition. He showed slides of CAT scans of stunted children's brains, with weaker cell and nerve development.

"What this means is, for the remainder of that child's life, irrevocably the child will learn less in school, will earn less later, is more vulnerable to disease," he said. "This is a tragic violation of that child's life, but it's also a tremendous strain on that society."

The U.N. report found that 24 countries with the highest levels of stunted children were concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. More than half of those under age 5 in Timor-Leste, Burundi, Niger and Madagascar suffered from stunting. The country with the largest number of stunted children was India with 61.7 million, or 48 percent of all Indians under age 5.

Lake said the problem of stunted child development was growing in Syria because of its civil war and widespread disruption to medical care, schools and family life. Even before the onset of war, the report found, Syria's stunting rate for its children was 28 percent.

When asked what part of the world most needed attention, Lake said he could offer only "a sad litany of how many spots there are."

But he said in every country where stunting was identified as a major problem, UNICEF officials were working with local aid agencies and the government. He said even Syria and North Korea permitted U.N. and local officials to distribute the water, vitamins and education to expectant mothers.

"I've never had any (country) push back," he said. "There's a natural reluctance among all governments to say: 'Yes we have a problem that we could have fixed quicker.' So you're always going to get a little bit of denial. But I've never heard of a country that said: 'No, we're not going to deal with it.'"

Lake noted that ensuring ideal growth during the key first 2 years of life didn't just mean eating a lot.

"People too often assume if you get enough food to eat, you're getting enough nutrition to head off malnutrition or stunting. The fact is you can eat lots of food and not get enough nutrients," he said, noting that India suffered no food shortages yet produced 38 percent of the world's stunted children.

He said women in the Third World particularly needed to focus on breast feeding for the child's first six months because exposing the child to local tainted water supplies could mean diarrhea, one of the greatest killers in poor countries. Lake said diarrhea, if it didn't kill the child, "washes the nutrients out of the kid and stunts them."



BANGALORE, April 17, 2013


‘Focus on child rights in manifestoes’



Samajika Parivarthana Janandolana (SPJ), a collective of various organisations working for child rights, has urged political parties to ensure that issues pertaining to children are given due importance in their manifestoes.

Speaking at a press conference here on Tuesday, M. Narayanswamy, State convenor, SPJ said: “There is an urgent need to address issues of children such as malnutrition, implementation of the Right of Children For Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009.”

Mr. Narayanswamy said a large number of children in the State were malnourished. “There are lots of gaps in the identification of the malnourished children, gaps in providing milk and egg due to delayed payments by the State to the anganwadi workers. The task force and the monitoring committee set up at the district and the state level are eyewash with no civil society representatives in the monitoring committee,” he added.

Y. Mariswamy, State organiser, SPJ, said, “All policies are not supporting children’s welfare. There is a need to ensure that each child is given basic education. But ironically, government schools are being shut.”


These children are made to feel that they are not different

By Express News Service - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

16th April 2013 12:01 PM

Children having lunch at ‘Sangamam 2013’, held at Kanakakkunnu on Monday | express

More than 240 children, mostly from economically backward families in the district and affected by HIV/AIDS, had a day out on Monday at Kanakakkunnu Palace. Children infected with HIV or orphaned by HIV were among the participants of ‘Sangamam 2013’, an event organised by ‘Keraleeyam - a Global Kerala Initiative’.

 Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated the valedictory function and distributed financial assistance of Rs 10,000 each to these children. “The Social Justice Department will take up special projects to protect the orphan children and those affected by AIDS,” said Chandy in his address.

 It was a great time for the children as they performed dances and sang songs, enjoying every moment forgetting their illness. Children from various parts of the state joined hands celebrating and proving that they were in no way different from other children in the society.

 “Several children who require home-based care end up in institutions owing to lack of awareness. An increase in awareness about HIV could ensure the need of love and care for these children. And with this, they can hold an equal status among others in the society,” said N R Harikumar, an official with ‘Santhwanam’, a project to support HIV/AIDS affected children under Keraleeyam.

 Personalities holding important positions in the society interacted with the participants, creating awareness and teaching them the message that they had the legal right to life, besides the other rights of children. “Most of the children were unaware what HIV/AIDS is,” he said.

 “Only a fraction of children living with HIV receive life-saving therapies. Without treatment, the children face a short-lived future. Therapies for these children are expensive compared to adults. It is difficult to afford these therapies as far as a financially backward family is concerned. The adult formulas are less expensive, but are not child-friendly,” said Jameela, a parent and Santhwanam coordinator.

 “The programme aims to involve citizens, educational institutions and healthcare sector in the child rights protection campaign. Creating self-confidence is the first step towards ensuring protection of the children. Kids with  HIV/AIDS are often discriminated on account of their health status in the society,” she said.

 The programme was presided over by Keraleeyam  chairman P V Abdul Wahab. Vice-chairman Sarosh Abraham, RP Group of Companies chairman Ravi Pillai, former diplomat T P Sreenivasan and Biju Ramesh were present, among others, at the function.


India's 'one month wives' sex tourism

By Dean Nelson | Daily Telegraph - HYDERABAD

15th April 2013 08:33 AM

·         Photos


Hyderabad's Women and Child Welfare Society said there were up to 15 'contract marriages' in the city every month and that the number is rising. (Express pic)

A 17-year-old girl has exposed the scale of Islamic sex tourism in India where Muslim men from the Middle East and Africa are buying 'one month wives' for sex.

Campaigners for Muslim women's rights said while short term 'contract marriages' are illegal in India and forbidden in Islam, they are increasing in Hyderabad, in southern India, where wealthy foreigners, local agents and 'Qazis' – government-appointed Muslim priests – are exploiting poverty among the city's Muslim families.

The victim, Nausheen Tobassum, revealed the scale of the problem when she escaped from her home last month after her parents pressurised her to consummate a forced marriage to a middle aged Sudanese man who had paid around £1,200 for her to be his 'wife' for four weeks.

She told police she had been taken by her aunt to a hotel where she and three other teenager girls were introduced to a Sudanese oil company executive. The 'groom', Usama Ibrahim Mohammed, 44 and married with two children in Khartoum, later arrived at her home where a Qazi performed a wedding ceremony.

According to Inspector Vijay Kumar he had paid 100,000 Rupees (around £1,200) to the girl's aunt Mumtaz Begum, who in turn paid 70,000 Rupees to her parents, 5,000 Rupees to the Qazi, 5,000 Rupees to an Urdu translator and kept 20,000 Rupees herself. The wedding certificate came with a 'Talaknama' which fixed the terms of the divorce at the end of the groom's holiday.

"The next day he came to the house of the victim girl and asked her to participate in sex but she refused. She is a young girl and the groom is older than her father," Inspector Kumar told The Telegraph.

Her parents reassured him they would persuade their daughter and told her she would be punished if she did not. Instead she ran out of their tiny one room home in Hyderabad's Moghulpuri neighbourhood and was rescued by a police patrol. The police arrested the groom, the victim's aunt and the Qazi, and issued a warrant for her parents' arrest – Nausheen is a minor under Indian law and cannot marry until she reaches 18. Her parents are now in hiding but will be charged with arranging a child marriage, 'outraging the modesty' of a woman, and criminal conspiracy.

Inspector Kumar said there are dozens of illegal short term contract marriages in the city, and that the Sudanese man they arrested had come to Hyderabad after a friend in Khartoum told him he had taken a '40 day wife' during an earlier visit.

"If a Sudanese wants to have sex, he has to pay three times more [in Sudan] because there are far fewer girls there, or he takes a second wife. In India the girls are coming for a cheaper rate and they are beautiful. Even if they are only staying for a few days they are doing this kind of illegal marriages for sex," he said.

He said the visitors want to marry because they believe prostitution is forbidden under Islam. Poor families agree to contract marriages because they have many daughters and cannot afford to pay for all their weddings.

Instead, they have a series of one-month contract 'marriages' to fund their own genuine wedding.

Shiraz Amina Khan of Hyderabad's Women and Child Welfare Society, said there were up to 15 'contract marriages' in the city every month and that the number is rising because.

"They come to Hyderabad because it has maximum downtrodden families. Thirty to forty per cent of families are going for the option of contract marriages to relieve their poverty. It has to be stopped," she said.

Nausheen Tobassum, who is now living in a government home for girls said in an interview before she was placed in care, that she had filed a complaint to stop the same thing happening to other girls.

"I didn't know what was happening and I agreed in ignorance. They forced me. They changed my date of birth certificate and made a fake one, where I was shown as 24 years old. They exploit girls and that's why I went to police. I had to show courage to go to police against my parents. I don't want to go back to my home, I am scared," she said.


Saturday, 13 April 2013


NEW DELHI, April 13, 2013

Out of school children and dropout a national emergency: UNICEF


Children bringing firewood collected from streams and fields to home in Kattubadipalem village in Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh. Photo: K. Ravi Kumar


With eight million children never having stepped inside a school and 80 million dropping out without completing basic schooling, the United Nations Children’s Fund has described the situation as a national emergency and called for equipping the government and civil society to implement the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

“There has been progress in implementation of the Act in the past three years but children are still dropping out, not for labour, but because they are not learning anything in schools,” Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative in India, said at a media roundtable on the “Progress of the RTE Implementation” here on Thursday.

He said capital punishment and discrimination were realities. “The work has to be done with a sense of urgency and business as usual will not do.”

In his presentation, Professor R. Govinda, Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, said 11.18 million more children had been enrolled in the last three years and while gender disparity in enrolment across social groups had gone down, this did not help in controlling the dropout rate significantly. It had come down marginally to 27 per cent at the primary level and 41 per cent at the elementary level.

Worse, 13 per cent of students did not transit from the primary to upper primary level and there was not much on offer for migrant children, and dropouts who wanted to rejoin school, though the Act did provide for bridge courses.

On pupil-teacher ratio, Prof. Govinda said while the average PTR had improved across most States between the academic years 2011-12 and 2012-13, the percentage of schools with adverse PTR was still high, indicating that redeployment of teachers was needed, in addition to recruitment of qualified and better trained teachers, which would also improve learning outcomes.

Poor teaching, poor outcome

Real work had to be done on teacher quality, classroom teaching, effective school functioning and improved school management in the coming two years.

“The focus has to be on improving the quality and way of teaching because poor outcomes are a result of poor schooling and poor teaching.”

As for providing drinking water and sanitation, he said much had been achieved but even basic facilities like a ramp were not available in most schools for differently-abled children.

‘Bring pre-school within RTE ambit’

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Shanta Sinha said a survey in 300 districts by the panel showed there were no language teachers in 37 per cent schools, 31 per cent had no social studies teachers and 29 per cent had no maths and science teachers.

Dr. Sinha suggested inclusion of pre-school within RTE ambit and extending the Act to Class 12 for better results.



JAIPUR, April 13, 2013
For every girl child born, they plant 111 trees
Rajasthan village shows the way for uplift of women
In an atmosphere where every morning newspapers greet us with stories of girls being tormented, raped, killed or treated like a doormat in one way or the other, trust India's “village republics” to bring in some good news from time to time. A village in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district quietly practises its own brand of eco-feminism, achieving spectacular results.
For the last several years, the Piplantri village panchayat has been saving girl children and simultaneously increasing the green cover too. People plant 111 trees every time a girl is born and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as girls grow up. Over the past six years, over a quarter million trees have been planted.
On an average, 60 girls are born here every year, according to the former sarpanch, Shyam Sundar Paliwal. He was instrumental in starting this initiative in memory of his daughter Kiran, who died a few years ago. In about half of these cases, the parents are reluctant to accept the girl child, he says. Such families are identified by a committee.
A sum of Rs. 21,000 is collected from the residents and Rs. 10,000 from a girl's father. The total amount is put in a fixed deposit account opened in the girl’s name with a maturity period of 20 years.
But here's the best part.
“We make every girl’s parents sign an affidavit promising that they would not marry her off before the legal age, send her to school regularly and take care of the trees planted in her name,” says Mr. Paliwal.
People also plant 11 trees when someone dies. But this village of 8000 did not just stop at planting trees and greening their commons. To prevent termite attack, the residents planted over two-and-a-half million aloe vera plants around the trees.
Now they are a source of livelihood for several residents. “Now, residents make and market aloe vera products,” Mr. Paliwal says.
The panchayat has a studio-recorded anthem and its own website (
It has banned alcohol, open grazing of animals and cutting of trees.

Friday, 12 April 2013

RTE has failed to impart quality education: report

A report on RTE suggests that the government adopt the model followed in Gujarat

Sahil Makkar 

First Published: Thu, Mar 28 2013. 11 16 PM IST

RTE is seen as one of three key flagship social programmes of the union government. Photo: Abhjit Bhatlekar/ Mint


New Delhi: With the deadline to enforce the Right to Education (RTE) across India expiring in two days, a group of for-profit and non-profit organisations on Thursday released a critical analysis of the programme and suggested that the government adopt the model followed in Gujarat.

"Three years since the passage of the RTE Act, an ever-increasing number of children have access to education. Yet, a large and growing amount of data points to the fact that student learning levels are unacceptably low, and that improving schooling inputs have had a very limited impact on improving learning outcomes," said the 22-member group, which includes organisations such as Accountability Initiative and Centre for Civil Society.

"The RTE's focus on inputs to education rather than on learning outcomes of students may ensure that children are in school, but is unlikely to result in them getting a meaningful education," it added.

The Act, often referred to by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government as one of the key achievements of its second term, has failed to keep pace with the schedule of implementation. The deadline expires on 31 March.

RTE is seen as one of three key flagship social programmes of the union government, the other two being the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the National Rural Health Mission.

Ashish Dhawan of the Central Square Foundation said that due to non-compliance with RTE norms such as infrastructure and teachers' salaries, around 300,000 budget schools, accessed by around 40-50 million students, face the threat of closure.

"This is completely counterproductive... We therefore call for an approach to private school regulation based on transparency and disclosure of audited performance metrics as opposed to inputs. The approach outlined in Gujarat's model rules of recognizing private schools based on meeting performance standards is (a) path-breaking model to follow," the report said.

The government has already refused to extend the deadline to enforce RTE norms against demand for this by at least 13 states.


RTE has put 11 million more children in school : Unicef

Source: IANS      Date: 4/12/2013 8:11:55 AM

New Delhi, April 12 : The Right to Education Act has ensured that the education budget in most states has doubled - 11 million more children are now enrolled in schools, Louis-George Arsenault, Unicef India representative, said Thursday.

Arsenault said 99 percent of India's rural population now has a primary school within a one-km radius. 

The Unicef India representative, however, also noted the challenges that still lie ahead: despite the landmark law, eight million Indian children remain out of school.

Getting the children who have fallen out of the school system within it, and into age-appropriate classes remains a significant challenge, he said. 

High enrollment rates alone do not mean much, if drop-out rates also remain high, the Unicef representative pointed out, speaking of the 80 million children who still drop out of school before completing the full cycle of elementary education.

Arsenault was speaking at a media round-table discussion to take stock of three years of the Right to Education Act. 

March 31, 2013, was the agreed deadline for meeting most of the targets set by the RTE.

The Unicef representative expressed concern that even when students were going to school, their learning levels may be alarmingly poor. Many students who attend school do not learn the basics of literacy and numeracy, and do not achieve the necessary knowledge and skills for all-round development, as specified under the Act. 

Arsenault also pointed out that some one-time investments like putting in place a well-stocked library or a functional toilet in every school made significant differences, a pedagogic transformation, as envisaged by the RTE, would only be brought about by substantive institutional reform. 

The Right to Education Act guarantees every child the fundamental right to eight years of quality education, so that he or she acquires basic literacy and numeracy, and enjoys learning without fear.


Study by RTE Forum shows states are far behind meeting RTE targets

Shreya Roy Chowdhury, TNN Apr 11, 2013, 03.23PM IST

NEW DELHI: The numbers only confirm what everyone already knows - we are nowhere near achieving the standards of education and education-infrastructure envisioned in the RTE Act.

A status report on RTE Act implementation across the country by RTE forum -- an umbrella organization of over a 1000 NGOs working in education -- released in Delhi on Wednesday show that less than half the schools have separate toilets for girls; only 61.34% have undertaken child-mapping (less than 40% have registers to show for it); 5% are operating from single rooms and 7% still don't have blackboards.

The report, covering 17 states (excluding Delhi) and over 2000 schools - government (1648), government-aided (287) and private-unaided (256) - is based on primary and secondary data collected from November, 2012 to January, 2013. While progress has been made on meeting some norms - 77% comply with neighbourhood ones, 79% schools have "all-weather" buildings and 80% claim to have teaching-learning material - a lot needs to be done to meet some of the others. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have most of the schools surveyed that are still without functional blackboards; the "last child" - migrants and nomads - are still out of the system with 41% schools not including them in the child-mapping exercise; 58% have playgrounds and 55%, libraries. Though the numbers are small, there are still schools that don't allow dalits, adivasis, Muslims and differently-abled pupils to sit on benches. And as Vinod Raina, member, Central Advisory Board of Education, points out, there's "no grievance redressal system in this."

Educationists attending the RTE forum's stock-taking convention where the report was released, say that it's time the civil society started taking violators to court. Former NCERT director Krishna Kumar had suggested preparation of state and district reports; Raina suggested taking that data to the courts. He said activists and civil society should stop treating RTE as a "non-justiciable policy." He also informed participants of the convention, that CABE has suggested to the government that they make three committees to help in the next three months, with creating a roadmap for the next two years (we have to have a universal professionally-trained teachers' force by March 2015).

The forum's own demands include the allocation of 6% of GDP to education; extending the RTE Act to include early childhood care and education; protecting schools from privatization; creation of "democratically constituted School Management Committees in every school that'll have full powers; and revamping of teacher-education as well as governance structure.


Only 61.34% schools have undertaken child-mapping; 39.6% maintain a register of child mapping; 41% do not include migrants and nomads in mapping.

Of the total, primary and upper primary, 77% comply with neighbourhood norms as per the RTE Act.

79% have all weather buildings; 5% operate in single classrooms: 7% (mostly schools of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) still do not have functional black boards.

Only 77.8% have drinking water; 68.8% have kitchen for mid-day meals.

53% don't have separate toilets for girls (less than half the schools in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajashtan and West Bengal have toilets for girls).

Only 9.2% have CWSN (Children with Special Needs)-friendly toilets; 40% have ramps with handrails.

25% still have para teachers; 10% had sub contract/proxy teachers.

56.6% schools in the primary and upper primary schools follow the respective RtE norms of 1:30 and 1:35 (teacher-student ratio) respectively.