Commitment to transparent functioning

We at Pardarshita strongly feel that while we demand the government departments to be transparent with everyone, we also have a duty of maintaining transparency in terms of our own work, expenditures, funding and so on. So, to re-iterate our commitment towards ethical and pardarshi work, we invite anyone to inspect our books of accounts.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Delhi worst in setting up school committees

Shreya Roy Chowdhury TNN 

New Delhi: AAP government may not have had to recruit a group of volunteers to inspect government schools if School Management Committees — statutory bodies mandated by the Right to Education Act 2009 —had been formed and running properly. But Delhi has the worst record of all states for establishing SMCs; the guidelines for setting these were issued on March 25, 2013, six days before the deadline for the implementation of the Act. 

    As per the data gathered through District Information System for Education and compiled into ‘DISE Flash Statistics 2012-13,’ (released in November 2013), only 6.93% of Delhi’s government and aided schools had constituted SMCs by September 2012. In West Bengal, which had the second worst record, 51.05% schools had SMCs and in Goa, 51.83%. Once the guidelines were issued, SMCs were hastily assembled by schools and in nearly all cases, selection wasn’t through election. 

    Activists say education minister Manish Sisodia’s willingness to involve the general public in school-govern
ance — SMCs were meant to do just that — is a positive sign but a set of volunteers is not the solution. “A parallel system won’t work in the long term,” says Rajiv Kumar of NGO Pardarshita who’s also SMC-member of three schools. “The government should focus on a mechanism for time-bound redress of 
grievances, on ensuring SMCs are formed through transparent and fair elections and that they meet regularly.” 

    The importance accorded to SMCs is evident from the fact that RTE Act leaves the formulation of School Development Plans (SDP) to them. 

    Toward the end of 2013, Pardarshita had filed a batch of questions under the RTI Act asking 16 schools to furnish minutes of SMC meetings and SDPs. Only three had met more than once; only one had met thrice; none had a
proper SDP in place. “Some sent us minutes of meetings as SDPs,” says Kumar, “Funds are supposed to be released on the basis of SDPs but no mechanism has been devised to take them into consideration.” 

    SMCs, activists feel, have been designed to fail. Their weaknesses have been built into their structures. They say principals, being chairpersons, have randomly selected members, preferring ‘netas’. Parents, says Kumar, don’t want to stick their necks out and speak up. 

    Moreover, says JOSH’s Saurabh Sharma, “members don’t know what to do”. “They have the power only to recommend and there’s no guarantee the department will take action. They may inspect and register complaint but most often it only gets forwarded,” says Sharma. 

    The SMCs have also been left oddly vulnerable. “They may complain about the quality of mid-day meal with no action being taken but the moment kids fall ill, they’ll be blamed,” says Sharma. Make the recommendations binding, suggest both Kumar and Sharma, that way even members feel their views matter. 

WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN Composition of School Management Committee 
Proportionate representation to EWS/disadvantaged groups 
    One social worker involved in education and an elected representative of local authority 

    Principal will be member and ex-officio chairperson; vice-chairperson will be a parent 
    Three ‘special invitees’ – one teacher each from social science, science and maths 

FUNCTIONS Meet at least once in 2 months and prepare development plan Supervise working of school, utilization of grant Raise awareness in the community. 
Ensure teachers are not burdened with non-academic duties other than those specified in RTE 
Look into enrolment and continued attendance of neighbourhood kids 
Monitor maintenance of 
norms under RTE and alert government on violations 
Check identification and enrolment of disabled children. Make facilities available 
Identify children requiring special training and organize sessions.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Press release on 'bal sunwai' (public hearing by children) on Right to Education Act on 26 December 2013

More than 500 underprivileged children from various parts of the city gathered at D Block, New Seemapuri today to articulate their grievances against MCD schools and schools run by the Delhi government in a first-of-its-kind ‘bal sunwai’ (public hearing conducted by children). The theme of the sunwai was improper implementation of the Right to Education Act 2009 (RTE) that promises compulsory quality education to children between the age-group of 6-14 years that too free of cost, without any need of documents at the time admission along with provision of school uniform and  books from the side of the government.

In a thickly attended three-hour session, children brought out the difficulties faced by them at school and how helpless their situation gets when it comes to asking for their rights from authority figures, both in and outside school. Children came from places as far as Bawana, Kalkaji, Govindpuri, Kalyanpuri, Badli, Old Seemapuri, New Seemapuri, Rangpur Pahadi, Zafarabad and Sunder Nagari for the sunwai, many of them escorted by their parents.

Shahrukh, a resident of New Seemapuri, complained about how he became unconscious for a few hours and got temporary hearing loss when his teacher, who is a habituated to beating children with a stick, hit him for no reason. He is from the Government Boys Senior Secondary School, J & K Block, Dilshad Garden. Another student complained about how his teachers constantly spoke on mobile phones or just chit-chatted in the staff room instead of taking classes. “When we approach them and demand them to teach us, they shoe us away by saying that netagiri mat karo, chup chap class main baitho,” said Sohail. Teachers showering children with the choicest abuses at the slightest of pretext is another very common experience as shared by many students.

Another boy Sajid complained about his teacher, who prefers to get drunk and sit in the staff room instead of teaching. He is from Government Boys Senior Secondary School, New Seemapuri.  Arun from Government Boys Senior Secondary School Nand Nagari protested, “When we speak up and complain about poor infrastructure in writing, teachers discourage us by threatening us and our parents with cancelling our admission or reducing our grades, so what option do we have other than quietly embracing all the ill-treatment and deprivation of our rights?” 

Kanchan from Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, New Seemapuri, was angry about safety of girl students. “When we are travelling back from school, boys, who should be inside classrooms in the second shift, stand outside and tease us daily. When we complained to the principal about it, she brushed it aside as if it was a non-issue,” she said.

Chandni, another student from the same school, complained how the teacher made them run around for locating darris to sit on, many times for two periods out of eight! “We try to make arrangements for our own seating instead of studying at school. We have to sit on floor whether in cold winters, hot summers or wet monsoons. How many children can tolerate these hardships continuously?” she questioned. Shehzadi from Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, E Block, Nand Nagari exposed the level of difficulty faced by children at school when she shared how her teacher asked her to pick a broom and clean the toilets if she felt they were smelly and unusable.

Regarding admission-related issues, Samina, a parent, shared how she ran around for about two years to get her child admitted to school. “We are illiterate and don’t know our rights so the school takes advantage of that and makes unnecessary demands from us to find excuses to refuse our children education,” she said. Shahana, another parent, recollected how only one of her five children got admission to the government school after she ran from pillar to post, that too in class one when her daughter should have been in class five. Her admission was based on a relative’s residence proof despite RTE stipulating that no such documents were required for admission to any child before the age of 14 years.


Another boy Sohail from Bawana complained about how he was forced to dirty water from the school water cooler by his teacher that gave him typhoid. Another student shared how girls in her class have a harrowing time dealing with their teachers, who pull their hair routinely and call them ‘characterless’ based on their own mood swings. “It depresses us no end,” she said. 

In the case of children from New Seemapuri resettlement colony, which is the only minority district of Delhi, there are only four government schools they can approach, two schools under the MCD and two under the Delhi Government. This implies that on an average, 100-125 children get stifled into one classroom. “There is a very disproportionate distribution of resources in such a densely populated area. More schools must be provided along with basic infrastructural facilities like clean toilets, clean drinking water, classrooms that have desks and chairs and a committed teaching staff to fulfill the promise of quality education under the RTE,” said Ritu Mehra, co-founder of Pardarshita.
The sunwai was attended by Chairperson of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Wajahat Habibullah, member of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) Mamta Sahai, former advisor of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and founder of Artha-Astha Radhika Alkazi, Convener of National Right to Education Forum Amrish Rai and many other NGO representatives working on the issue of child rights.

In the opinion of Sahai, since DCPCR is a quasi-judicial body with restricted powers, probably a PIL would make authorities more responsible and accountable while discharging their duties towards children. “If children give us their complaints in writing, we would do everything we can to resolve them,” she promised. Rajiv, founder Pardarshita, however exclaimed that till the time a mechanism for time-bound case disposal at DCPCR is evolved, children’s right to education can never be ensured as precious time gets wasted in paper-work stretching for months, sometimes years.

Shri Habibullah, however sounded more positive. He said that Commissions do have powers of a civil court so cases regarding discrimination of specific communities including violation of their RTE should be brought to their notice and they would certainly take cognizance of the same.