- Right to Education Act (RTE) has been extended to J&K after article 370 abrogation, but has Govt failed to enforce its provisions on ground.
Recently I found an order issued by the Chief Education Officer (CEO) of district Shopian in June this year where nine (9) teachers working in various different Government schools of the district were deputed for election related work and asked to report to different Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) and Assistant Electoral Registration Officer (AEROs). The CEOs order No: CEO/SPN/Estt/2505-11 Dated : 3.06.2022 reads as :
“As desired by District Election Officer (Deputy Commissioner Shopian) vide official letter number mentioned under reference regarding the subject cited above, sanction is hereby accorded for the temporary deployment of computer knowing teaching officials to ERO/ AERO offices of district Shopian for a period of three months with immediate effect in light of circular No: 01 Edu of 2022 Dated 18.01.2022 to the various offices of EROs and AEROs of district Shopian “
Government might have fully trained these nine teachers for 3 months and by now they would be fully aware about electoral registration work , but what about the poor children who were deprived of education for three months ? I have been told that these teachers have still not been relieved from the deputation. Out of nine teachers, three are working in primary schools and another five teachers are working in Upper Primary Schools (UPS) and one is working in a high school. We know that most of the Primary schools have only a single teacher
What does the RTE Act say ?
The Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education Act 2009 also called Right to Education Act (RTE) says that no teacher shall be deployed for any non-educational purposes other than the decennial population census, disaster relief duties or duties relating to elections to the local authority or state legislatures or parliament, as the case may be. How can the Government depute school teachers for 3 months training on electoral registration or any other election related work when even the election notification in J&K has not been issued. It is unclear when state assembly elections will be held ? The section 27 of RTE Act 20009 reads as :
“Prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes.—No teacher shall be deployed for any non-educational purposes other than the decennial population census, disaster relief duties or duties relating to elections to the local authority or the State Legislatures or Parliament, as the case may be”
In 2019 Delhi High Court took the authorities to task for assigning duties to school teachers which were “not remotely” connected to imparting education. The high court held that principals and teachers cannot be asked by municipal corporations to perform duties outside the purview of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act and rules under it.
Justice C Hari Shankar set aside several notifications issued by the corporations requiring the principals and teachers to conduct household surveys and participate in preparation of the Ward Education Register.
The court, however, clarified that authorities are justified in seeking assistance of principals and teachers to aid in opening bank accounts of children in the school and linking them with Aadhaar cards, but the requirement cannot be treated as “mandatory” and cannot be made a basis for proceeding against them for non-rendering adequate assistance.
Govt teachers as BLOs in J&K
As Government teachers in Jammu & Kashmir are also assigned the work of Booth Level Officers (BLOs) by various District Election Offices, the matter was on various occasions discussed and deliberated at various forums , but Govt didn’t find a solution to it. In January 2018 J&K Government admitted from the floor of the house that the deployment of government school teachers as booth level officers (BLOs) for election related works was adversely affecting the academics and overall education standards of students in government run schools. This was revealed in a reply to a query raised by BJP MLA from Chennai Udhampur Dina Nath Bhagat during the question hour of the Legislative Assembly. The then Education Minister Syed Altaf Bukhari in his reply however said that the matter has been taken up with the General Administration Department for exemption of teachers from such duties, but till date nothing has been done in this regard.
Talaash for out of school children
J&K Government launched a mobile based application Talash developed by UNICEF to track Out of School Children (OoSC). The Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been involved in identifying and mainstreaming out School Children in Jammu & Kashmir. Last year in October when the Talash app was launched around 60 Education Facilitators were trained during the training workshop at Jammu. Director Samagra Shiksha, during his address in the workshop called upon departments like Social Welfare and Labour Department to join hands with the School Education Department in the best interest of the children. Under the ‘Aao School Chalein Campaign’, J&K Govt has enrolled 1.65 lakh children in the last one year. The ‘Talaash’ app is being used to identify those who had to drop out of schools due to some reasons in the past few years. Unfortunately under this Talash programme and door to door survey several Govt teachers are involved which also affects the school work. In Budgam district many Govt school teachers were involved in the Talaash survey recently , but that should have been done on holidays and after school hours but the Govt school teachers were seen involved in this survey from 10 am to 4 pm. On one hand the Govt is working hard to bring back school dropouts to the schools , but on the other hand the work in many Govt schools suffered because of this as Govt school teachers were involved in the Talaash survey during office hours ?
RTE a fundamental right
Quality education is only possible when Government implements Right to Education Act (RTE) in letter and spirit in J&K . The Right to Education is a fundamental right in India . Why are Govt schools not able to deliver on the ground in spite of the fact that there are highly qualified teachers in these institutions. It has been observed that parents / guardians of Govt school teachers are not made the stakeholders in the education of their children / wards. The school, students and the parents/ community have to join hands together and that is why the Right to Education Act (RTE) was enacted with a supreme wisdom. This law ensures free and compulsory education to children across India. Earlier RTE Act was not applicable in J&K, but it has been extended to J&K after article 370 was read down. I don’t think now there is in any hindrance in streamlining the education system as per RTE ? The Govt continues to fail to deliver on the ground inspite of having RTE law operational in J&K . They can’t now claim that RTE Act isn’t applicable in J&K ? Who is suppose to enforce this law ?
The teachers continue to be deputed for non educational work. The School Management Committee (SMC) that are supposed to be set up under RTE Act in Govt schools are not made operational. The SMCs involve parents to make decisions for school development along with school principals and local elected representatives. We have SMCs only on papers and during the last 3 years , I haven’t heard about a single vibrant SMC working in any Govt Higher or High school in J&K ? The 25 % reservation for children of economically weaker sections of society in private schools is not enforced on ground. On this Teachers Day my message to the Govt is to enforce the RTE Act on the ground. Once this law is operational in totality it will ensure Govt school teachers are not deputed for non educational work and other provisions of this like constitution of SMCs and reservation for disadvantaged communities in private schools will also be implemented.