National Stocktaking Convention of the RTE Forum which is an annual event will be held on 30th March 2017. The RTE Forum is a collective of civil society organizations, teachers unions, educationists and intellectuals working to strengthen the public school system in India and particularly to ensure the implementation of the RTE Act, 2009. The Forum has state chapters in nineteen states. The teachers’ unions collaborating with it are All India Primary Teachers and All India Secondary Teachers Federations. The Forum is supported, among others, by UNICEF, UNESCO, Oxfam, Save the Children and Action Aid.
The RTE Forum is working in collaboration with the Council for Social Development (CSD) and its National Secretariat is located in its premises. Prof. Muchkund Dubey, President, CSD, has been associated as a Mentor from the inception of the Forum.
The RTE Forum organises every year a National Stocktaking Convention on a report prepared by it on the status of the implementation of the RTE Act. We were honoured to have the Vice President of India as the Chief Guest in the last Stocktaking convention. Besides that, eminent personalities from across the country and educationists like Prof. Muchkund Dubey, Prof Yashpal, Prof. Krishna Kumar, Prof. JBG Tilak, Vice Chancellor NUEPA, Prof. Shyam Menon, Vice Chancellor, Ambedkar University Delhi, Prof. Govinda, Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Medha Patkar have been among others, who have graced the occasion with their benign presence in the preceding years. The Convention provides the single largest platform to participants from across the country to come together, share their experiences and the multiple challenges they face in making education a reality for the children they work for, and build pressure for the implementation of the RTE Act.
Though the RTE Act suffers from many deficiencies, its adoption by the Parliament was a landmark event as it gave for the first time, legal recognition to the right of the children in the age group 6 to 14, to free and compulsory education. It also provided a set of norms to be applied commonly to all the elementary schools in India and a framework for integrated action on all its major provisions to universalise quality education within a prescribed time limit. Most of the provisions of the Act except those relating to teachers, were supposed to have been implemented within three years after it came into effect from 1 April 2010. And the implementation of the entire Act including the provisions relating to teachers, was to be completed within five years. This time limit expired on April 1, 2015, but the country has a long way to go to ensure that no child is denied its right to a good quality education.
The government has not yet come out with new deadlines for the implementation of the Act, a roadmap for completing implementation within a revised deadline and commitment of the required sources for this purpose. Instead, the emphasis has shifted to highlighting individual components of the Act in a fragmented manner. The government has also floated the idea of a New Education Policy which has further confused the situation. All this has created a very serious situation for school education in India.Two-thirds of the children in the country are still dependent on government schools for their education. These children come mostly from extremely poor and deprived families where parents have no option but to send their children to government schools. Further delay in implementation and the prevailing uncertainty regarding the RTE Act is going to jeopardise the future of these children and deny them the fundamental right to education now enshrined in the Constitution.
The forthcoming National Stocktaking Convention will take place in the background depicted above. It is going to be of considerable significance for the future of the RTE Act and hence millions of children, particularly of the marginalized families in the country.