28 Sep 2011

Every Child has a Right to Education

The Right to Free and Compulsory Act, came to effect on April 1, 2010 could alter the educational landscape. The RTE is rolling out fast in all states and will have significant impact on roles of organisations in the child space. The enforcement of this right represents a momentous step forward in our 100-year struggle for universalizing elementary education.

ducation has given many of us the opportunities to lead a better quality life and attain our goals. However, for millions of Indian children, education remains a distant dream - due to poverty, caste, gender discrimination and lack of access to schools. The quality education remains the most important tool towards the realization of rights of all children.

The elementary education in India: Where do we stand? Education in India is on the concurrent list. This means that while the Centre is responsible for providing general direction in terms of educational policy and curriculum, the running of the vast school network is the responsibility of individual state governments. Article 45 of the Indian Constitution states that, "The State shall strive to provide free and compulsory education to all citizens up to the age of 14" and the 93rd Constitutional Amendment (1994) made education a fundamental right that guarantees free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 – 14.

The elementary education is considered a basic developmental right of every child. However, the right remains largely unrealized:

  • India spends only 3.3 percent of its GDP on education, compared to an average 5.8 percent in developed countries. GOI had made a commitment to spend 6% of GDP on education in 1968, however the highest spend made so far is 4% of GDP.
  •  53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
  • High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
  • 1 in 40, primary school in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.
  • The common reasons given by 3 out of four drop-outs for leaving school are 
    • High cost of private education
    • Need to work to support their families
    •  No interest in studies.
  •  Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V - its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
  • The number of recognized schools imparting elementary education is over 1,285,576, of which 80% are Government run.
  • The number of children enrolled in Grades I-V in 2009 was 1,34,377,324, and in Grades V-VIII was 53,350,189.

Source: (DISE 2008-2009 Flash Statistics, National University for Education Planning and Administration [www.niepa.org])

As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), India already recognises fundamental rights of children to Survival, Development, Protection and Participation. Honouring the commitment made to the nation's children in Article 21A of the Constitution, The Right of Children to the Right of Children to Free and compulsory Education Act 2009 (Popularly referred to as RTE) has now become operational.

The Right to Education Act 2009
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), which was passed by the Indian parliament on 4 August 2009, describes the modalities of the provision of free and compulsory education for all children between 6 and 14 years in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution.

The Right to Education Act has been debated, discussed and deliberated by experts before it became a law. The RTE Act is the first legislation in the world that puts the responsibility of ensuring enrollment, attendance and completion, on the Government.

The Right to Education Act 2009 ensures
  • Free, compulsory education for all children from all ages 6-14 in a neighborhood school till completion of elementary education..
  • Mandated quality of education, including periodic teacher training, and quality monitoring.
  • Focus on continuous evaluation of students.
  • Local community participation in schools.
  • Government will set up or upgrade existing schools to meet quality, or it will provide for transportation and fees to nearby private schools.
  • Special provisions for disabled children, the Act guarantees all children with disabilities to the fundamental right to education.
  • The Act makes it obligatory on part of the state governments and local bodies to ensure that every child gets education in a school in the neighbourhood. Any cost that prevents a child from accessing school will be borne by the State which shall have the responsibility of enrolling the child as well as ensuring attendance and completion of 8 years of schooling.

The Right to Education (RTE) Act grants every child, between the age bracket of 6 to 14 years, the right to free and quality education. The Act also specifies minimum norms in government schools and in private schools, a reservation of 25% of seats to children from poor families (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan).

The RTE will ensure that quality education is provided to children of all community, including minorities and backward classes. However, the reservation for weaker section will not be implemented from this year as the admission season is almost over and will be implemented from 2011-12.

According to the Act, no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education. There is also a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them at par with students of the same age.

All children between the ages of 6 and 14 shall have the right to free and compulsory elementary education at a neighbourhood school. There is no direct (school fees) or indirect cost (uniforms, textbooks, mid-day meals, transportation) to be borne by the child or the parents to obtain elementary education. The government will provide schooling free-of-cost until a child's elementary education is completed.

The state government and local authorities will establish primary schools within walking distance of one km of the neighbourhood. In case of children for Class VI to VIII, the school should be within a walking distance of three km of the neighbourhood.No child shall be denied admission for want of documents; no child shall be turned away if the admission cycle in the school is over and no child shall be asked to take an admission test. Children with disabilities will also be educated in the mainstream schools.

RTE also calls for improving school infrastructure and training teachers so that every child in India has access to a quality education.

How does RTE promote Child-Friendly Schools?

All Schools must comply with infrastructure and teacher norms for an effective learning environment. Two trained teachers will be provided foe every sixty students at the primary level.
Teachers are required to attend school regularly and punctually, complete curriculum instruction, assess learning abilities and hold regular parent-teacher meetings. The number of teachers shall be based on the number of students rather than by grades.

Watchdog: Mechanism for of RTE violations

The National or the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights is responsible for examining the safeguards for rights under the act and recommending measures for effective implementation. It is also responsible for inquiring into complaints relating to child’s rights to free and compulsory education. A National Advisory Council constituted by the central government will advise the central government in effective implementation of the act. The committee will comprise a maximum of 15 members, all of whom are expected to be knowledgeable and experienced with elementary education and child development. Similarly, a state advisory council constituted by each state government will be responsible for advising the state government.

The passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 marks a historic moment for the children of India. This Act serves as a building block to ensure that every child has his or her right (as an entitlement) to get a quality elementary education, and that the State, with the help of families and communities, fulfils this obligation. It is also important to ensure the proper implementation of the Act and the implementation will directly benefit close to one crore children who do not go to schools at present. These children, who have either dropped out from schools or have never been to any educational institution, will be enrolled in schools. The reach and effect this Act on the primary education landscape could be enormous.

Read more about RTE and its implications visit:

12 Sep 2011

Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Program in Schools

* By Trishla Jasani  * 

CIF has launched Mumbai’s largest initiative in the CSA Awareness space. The program aims to reach 1000 schools, 1 million children and their families within the next year. The program, supported by funding from HDFC, is carried forward by trained lady volunteers, each of whom is allotted a list of schools to complete according to her area and language preference.

Volunteers are required to go through an intensive 2-3 day training program in the beginning of the program, comprising of knowledge and skills component and also a session which trains them to deliver the program on safe and unsafe touch in an age appropriate manner.

The school program is in no way a Sex Education Course, rather uses a simple story telling method in schools to introduce children to the concepts of safe and unsafe touch, and what to do if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation i.e Personal Safety Rules. 

 After registering via filling out the required details in our registration form, either on the website or manually, prospective volunteers will be called for a 1 hour orientation session to the CIF office at Grant Road. Here, the volunteers will clear their doubts and get more familiarized with the program. This interaction also provided as the basis for which the team may select volunteers. . After this, all those selected will need to sign a Commitment Document at the time of confirmation.

In this section, Trishla Jasani* outlines a step by step process of completing workshops in Schools. This article will act as your guide/checklist in the field and will make sure you do not forget any vital component of the program in each school. 

Step 1: Contact and meet with the principal of the school.

From the list you will be given in the field kits start contacting your schools and setting up appointments to meet with principals. At times principals will not give you an actual appointment but will suggest you come to the school during their office hours. Also some schools have separate primary and secondary school principals. You will have to meet with both of them in order to get permission for the various classes. Remember: For your first meeting in each school contact the CHILDLINE CSA Project Team and we will send one person to come with you. Hand over a copy of the authorisation letter given to you by CIF and obtain a formal permission from the principal. The formal permission is important. During your meeting with the Principal and while getting formal permission let the principal know of all components of the program, i.e. the stories, the labels, the letter to parents and the posters. Be complete upfront so that there is no confusion or problem later. 

Step 2: Use the Planner

Use the Planner provided to mark out time for each class and each division (2nd to 6th). Also make sure you plan for parent/teacher sessions if you have been requested to do so by the principal prior to the classroom sessions. 

Step 3: 

a. Conducting the Sessions in Classes

 During the sessions you will need the following items - This handbook - The Flipchart (English, Hindi or Marathi depending on the medium of the school) - 1 Label Sheet per child in class - 1 Letter to Parents per child in class (English, Hindi or Marathi depending on the language spoken at home) Follow the instructions given in the Appendices, tell the story and hand out the labels. At the end of the session hand out one pre-stuck inland letter to each child and ask him/her to write their name and hand it to parents/guardian when they get home. Remember: Thank the children for their time and for listening 

b. Conducted Parent Teacher Sessions 

A complete module of information you need to cover in a parent/teacher session has been included in, in three languages. In addition to this information feel free to talk about the stories (classes 2nd to 6th), flipcharts and labels. Also let parents know they will receive an informational letter regarding the same through their children. Keep some letters on hand if parents ask for it at the session.

Step 4: Put up posters

 Once all sessions in each division and class are complete in a particular school, approach the principal once more about posting the posters if she/he has not done so already. 

Step 5: Get the Principal to Sign Off 

Once all sessions in each division and class are complete in a particular school, approach the principal with this handbook and ask him/her to sign in the demarcated column in the Planner 

Step 6: Report to CHILDLINE CSA Team

Note: CIF is providing you will all the materials you require. The CSA Project Team will be maintaining a record of all materials handed over to volunteers. When you run out of letters/labels/posters please contact the CSA Project Team to organise for more. Please give us at least a week’s notice so that we have time to print if necessary. At the end of your one year period please return all materials to the CIF Office. 

These include:

  • Flipcharts (All that were assigned to you)
  • Extra Labels
  • Extra Letter to Parents
  • Extra Posters
Read more about CSA program here

Click Here to Register for CSA program. 

* Trishla Jasani  was a Consultant Program Coordinator at CHILDLINE India Foundation.

5 Sep 2011

Dealing with Child Sexual Abuse Disclosures

- By Dr Shubhada Maitra *

Discussing issues related to child sexual abuse comes in the context of a discourse around sex, sexuality and related issues. Disclosures about CSA can never take place in a context where all discussions, questions, curiosity about sex and sexuality are thwarted or left unanswered with a 'you will know when you grow up'. kind of a response. Following are some helpful ways in which discussions around 'taboo' topics and sexual abuse can be facilitated:

  • Use appropriate language and words for body parts. If a nose is a nose, ears are ears, hands are hands, why do we need nicknames for breasts, penis, vagina, buttocks, anus? Teach the child these words so that there is no hesitation or barrier in discussing sex related issues. If sexual abuse happens, the child will find it less difficult to share what happened if s/he has the language to describe the experience. 
  • There is no perfect age to start 'educating'. children about sex. When the child first pops the questions is the perfect time. Children as young as four may ask, 'how are babies born', 'where did I come from', 'when are you going to bring me a baby sister/ brother', 'why don't I have a younger sister/brother', 'will I be able to born children like you born me' and so on. Talk to the child in a way s/he will understand. Do not overload or under-load the child with information. In other words, share information in a manner the child will understand, giving too much or too little information will confuse the child. For example, at age 4 when the child asks any of the above questions, talking about sexual intercourse will surely be overloading. Telling the child that this is not the time to talk about such things, or that s/he will understand when s/he grows up or that s/he should go and play is under-loading. When my 4 year old son asked me the last question posed above, I simply said emphatically, "Yes, surely". He was happy and scampered off. A couple of years later he asked me whether he will be able to grow a baby inside his body like I grew. him inside mine. And I said, 'No, because I have bag inside me in which you grew. You don't have that bag'. Again he asked no more and seemed satisfied with the response. It was at 9 years of age when we spoke of the ovum and the egg (thanks to his reading the Child craft series) and at 13 years of age he did not need information from me. But we continue to talk about sex, sexuality  condoms, love, responsibilities of a relationship and so on. 
  • Remember, sex and sexuality education is an ongoing process, not a onetime activity. Keep your communication doors open for children to ask questions about these matters, whenever. There is no 'The End' to such conversations. 
  • Do not change channels if an advertisement of a condom or a sanitary napkin suddenly comes up. Do not show your discomfort. Answer any queries if the child asks. Behave as normally as possible keeping your tone even.
  • If the child exhibits any age inappropriate sexual behavior or uses any inappropriate sexual language, do not reprimand the child. Instead it might be more helpful to ask, 'Where did you learn that from or where did you see/hear that?' Listen to the child patiently instead of panicking, expecting the worst. 
  • Believe the child when the child discloses any discomforting incident with an adult or older child, no matter who that person is or what relationship you share with the person. When the abuser is someone close to the child, the child often wonders if what is happening is real or is the child only imagining things. The last thing the child who is abused needs is disbelief from the adult who the child/ adult survivor has gone for help. 
  • A grandfather was abusing his granddaughter from age 7 to age 13 when she visited him during vacations. When she saw him turning his attention to her younger sister, she told her mother. The mother believed her daughter and never sent the two girls to the maternal grandparents. house again. A few years later she confronted her father about the abuse. Do not ever blame the child. Sexual abuse is never the child's fault. The child never invites or enjoys such attention. Take the example of a young 13 year old girl who was being abused by her maternal uncle. She was living with her maternal grandparents and their son, while her parents lived away for their work. One afternoon, the grandparents left home to visit someone, leaving the 13 year old girl alone with her maternal uncle who was 27 years old at the time. He threatened her and brought her in his room and was about to penetrate her anally when the grandmother arrived and saw what was happening. Instead of taking action against her son, the grandmother blamed the 13 year old for enticing her son into doing dirty things! The young girl could not convince her grandmother that in fact it was her son who had forced and threatened her into doing this. Do not offer excuses for the abuser's action. 
  • Nothing justifies abuse of children. By finding reasons for the abuser's action, one is in fact only supporting the abuser. Once you know of the abuse, offer immediate emotional support to the child. Tell the child that you believe her/him. Tell the child that it was not her/his fault. Not taking any action also amounts to silently supporting the abuser. A girl who was being abused by her granduncle and uncles was distraught to see them visit her house time and again, despite her having shared it with her mother. Yet, women may not be able to take explicit action against the men in their life, given women's position in the society and family. Blaming the women for inaction or for not stopping the abuse is like taking the blame and attention away from the abuser. Women may find support from survivor groups, women's groups, child rights organizations, counselors, or organizations working on sexual abuse to plan appropriate action in such an instance. The child should be at the centre of any decisions made with respect to disclosures about abuse.
  • Do not minimize abusing by attributing it to child's fantasy or attention seeking behavior. Remember, it is extremely difficult for the child to disclose what is happening to her/him. Research shows that disclosures are almost always delayed, well into adulthood. When they do happen, it is important to acknowledge it as reality and the need to take action that conveys your support to the child. 
  • Do not wait for problems to crop up if sexual abuse is disclosed. 
  • Do not expect that the child will forget about what happened. See a child counselor or a mental health professional to begin some initial support to the child. 
  • Do not ask the child to describe graphic details of the abuse. Let the child share as much as s/he is comfortable sharing. One doesn't need to know the details of what and how it happened. Focus on the child's emotions and listen intently to what the child is sharing. Do not ask victim-blaming questions like 'What were you doing there' or 'what were you wearing' or 'why did he do this to you''. Remember, there are no justifications for sexual abuse. Finally be alert. 
  • Anyone can abuse a child. Teach children to come and talk to you if they feel uncomfortable about anything or if any touching that might happen to them-be it at home, in school, on the playground, in a place where people gather to pray, on the streets, in the bus. Let children know that a lot of unwanted touching happens, that it is never their fault and that they should come and share it with a caring adult.

* - Dr Shubhada Maitra is currently Associate Professor and Chairperson, Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Deonar Mumbai. Her PhD thesis was on Mental Health Correlates of Child Sexual Abuse.