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Right to Education law comes into force from today

New Delhi, March 31 (PTI): A historic law making education a fundamental right of every child will come into force from today, directly benefiting close to one crore children who do not go to schools at present. The importance attached to the legislation could be gauged from the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in an unprecedented move will address the nation tomorrow highlighting the various aspects of the law.

Nearly 92 lakh children, who have either dropped out from schools or have never been to any educational institution, will get elementary education as it will be binding on part of the local and State governments to ensure that all children in the 6 to 14 years age group get schooling. The law is coming into force after the Centre and States resolved all issues for its implementation and agreed to share of funds in the ratio of 55:45.

Education became a fundamental right of every child in the age of 6 to 14 years through the 86th amendment by inserting a clause in the Constitution in 2002. Parliament passed the enabling law last year. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act has been notified with effect from tomorrow. The Right To Education is being touted by the UPA government as another major achievement after Right To Information Act and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

At present, there are nearly 22 crore children in the relevant age group. However, 4.6% of these children (nearly 92 lakh) are out of school, a ministry official said. The Act makes it a right of every child to get education. The Act makes it obligatory for the appropriate governments to ensure that every child gets free elementary education. The Act mandates that even private educational institutions have to reserve 25% seats for children from weaker sections. The Finance Commission has provided Rs. 25,000 crore to the States for implementation of the Act. As per the government’s estimate, there will be a requirement of Rs 1.71 lakh crore in the next five years for implementation of the Act. Certain schools have already challenged the law in the Supreme Court as being “unconstitutional” and violating fundamental rights of unaided private educational institutions. However, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has said that legal process would not affect the implementation of law.

The school management committee or the local authority will identify the dropout or out-of-school children above 6 years of age and admit them in classes appropriate to their age after giving special training. The provisions of the Act say no school can deny admission to a student and all schools need to have trained teachers. In the case of schools not having trained teachers, they will have to comply with the provision within 3 years.

As per the Act, the schools need to have certain minimum facilities like adequate teachers, playground and infrastructure. The government will evolve some mechanism to help marginalised schools comply with the provisions of the Act. Through the 86th Amendment, the Article 21(A) was inserted in the Constitution providing for free and compulsory education to all children in the 6-14 age group in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

The amendment requires a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his ward between the age of 6 and 14 years. The government has already prepared model rules which have been circulated to the States for preparing their own rules for implementation of the Act. The Centre has also prepared separate rules for the Union Territories which will be notified by the Law Ministry.

As per the Model rules, the local bodies and the State governments will undertake household surveys and neighbourhood school mapping to ensure that all children are sent to school. The rules say that the State governments or local authorities will determine the neighbourhood schools by undertaking school mapping. Such agencies shall ensure that no child is subjected to caste, class, religious or gender abuse in the school.

The local authority will conduct a household survey and maintain a record of all children in its jurisdiction. The record will contain detailed information about the child and the parents and will specify whether the child belongs to the weaker section or disadvantaged group or having any disability. The State government or local authorities will identify children with disabilities and children from disadvantaged groups every year.

Unaided and private schools shall ensure that children from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups shall not be segregated from the other children in the classrooms nor shall their classes be held at places and timings different from the classes held for the other children. The State government and local authorities will establish primary schools within walking distance of one km of the neighbourhood. In the case of children for Class VI to VIII, the school should be within a walking distance of 3 km of the neighbourhood. The private schools will reserve 25% seats for poor children and provide free education to them. The government will reimburse cost according to the per child expenditure fixed by it.


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