Fwd: invitation for public hearing on right to education bill
A Public Hearing
The Right to Education Bill and
UPA's Other Proposals Towards Commercialization of Education
August 7 (Friday), Jantar Mantar, 11 am Onwards
Prof. Anil Sadgopal, noted educationist
Prof. R.K. Agnihotri, Delhi University
Prof. Minati Panda, JNU
Prof. Nawal Kishore Choudhury, Patna University
Dr. Azra Razzak, Jamia Millia Islamia
Colin Gonsalves, Human Rights Law Network
Kedarnath Pandey MLC, Bihar, Teacher Leader
A. Narasimha Reddy, Vice President, Andhra Pradesh Save Education Committee
In 1993, in the Unnikrishnan judgement, the Supreme Court declared that from birth until the age of fourteen, children were entitled to free and compulsory education and this was accorded the status of a basic right. This is how the genuine Right to Education is best defined. In contrast, what the new bill promises is laughable. It states:
Ø That 25% seats in private schools will be reserved for poor students for "free" education in private schools. The government claims that it will pick up the tab for the tuition fees for these children. However, the fact is that the government only promises to provide "vouchers" to poor children equivalent to the admission fees of government schools. Do Mr. Sibal and the MHRD seriously believe that the fees in private schools and government schools are in any way comparable? Also, how will these children from poor families pay `picnic' fees, textbook `fees', sports `fees' and other such expenses that private schools regularly extort?
Ø Even if poor students manage to survive until Class 8, what will happen after this, when the government stops paying their fees? These children will be out on the streets once more, while those of their classmates who could pay the exorbitant fees, will pass Class 12 and go on to enter the hallowed portals of IITs, IIMs or prestigious foreign universities. There is one answer to all these complexities a Common Schooling System where every school [including the private schools] will be a neighbourhood school. But it is this one solution that all the torturous provisions of the bill could not come close to. The RTE is completely silent on this crucial question.
Ø The RTE is nothing but a blatant attempt of the UPA government to shirk its responsibility to provide universal, affordable and quality education. Instead of handing over education to private schools, shouldn't the state be working to set up better government schools? We all know how the rising fees of private schools is putting a strain even on middle class budgets. The recent agitations in Delhi against the obscene fees charged by private schools is proof enough.
Ø This is not the first time that the "free" schooling has been promised - residents of Delhi are well aware that private schools in the city were provided land practically free of cost by the government, in return for which supposed to give "free" education to poor children. Exactly how many poor children are able to access these elite facilities is there for anyone to see.
Ø What is also worth noting is the near-consensus in the parliament to support the farce that the UPA is peddling in the name of "Right to Education". In both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, the RTE was passed unanimously with no opposition whatsoever.
The RTE in its present form has several fundamental, structural problems and ambiguities that shelve it of any potential to really provide fundamental right to education as mandated by our constitution and the landmark 1993 Unnikrishnan judgment of the Supreme Court.
What is shocking is that the UPA as well as the NDA government before it are trying their level best to undermine and restrict the scope of the landmark Unnikrishnan judgment of the Supreme Court and the fundamental right of education underlined in the constitution under the garb of this "Right to Education Bill".
The farcical Right to Education Bill however is just part of the larger package of commercialisation and privatization that the UPA government has in store. 100-day agenda announced by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD). Kapil Sibal has promised `radical' reforms in the country's education system. As you are well aware, the `reforms' in education which the MHRD is advocating are nothing new. They are but a ruse for the government to escape its responsibility towards education and deliver it entirely into private hands. More than a decade of anti-privatization struggles by students have forced Governments to change their vocabulary; to `dress up' their privatization-commercialization agenda in a grand cloak of `reform'.
It is in the context of the UPA government's covert plans to sell out our education system to the private sector in bits and pieces that the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) and AISA are organizing a Public Hearing on 7th August 2009 (Friday) at Jantar Mantar from 11 am onwards. This pubic hearing will be attended by a wide cross section of society - intellectuals, teachers, students, and residents of Delhi from different sections of society.
We request you to attend the programme.
National General Secretary, AISA