The RTE Project was conceived by APSA in 2010 to ensure effective implementation and monitoring of the RTE Act in APSA working areas. As child education has always been a priority area for the organization, the project was born out of APSA’s experiences of working with urban poor children who are crippled by the triple handicap of poverty, lack of systemic and structural support systems and lack of power to voice their concerns. These children form the lowest rung in the socio-economic ladder and are therefore, most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation as they are usually unable to access the rights due to them, including the right to life and protection. The RTE project was initiated following the passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education, or Right To Education (RTE) Act of 2009.
At grassroots’ level, APSA has evolved individualized education support systems through its various projects for children in crisis who come from backgrounds of child labour, physical or sexual abuse or trafficking and school dropouts. At advocacy level, APSA lobbies various duty-bearers from the Department of Education on gaps in the education system and their accountability towards addressing these. APSA’s presence on the Committees of eminent civil society organizations such as the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) Karnataka, the People’s Alliance For Right to Education (PAFRE) and the RTE Taskforce, enables the organization to bring its experiences from the field into framing child-friendly policies and laws at state and national levels.
Under the RTE project, APSA works with children of economically poor or single parent families, marginalized or destitute children, slow learners, orphans, migrant children and school dropouts, as well as with heads and teaching staff of government schools, SDMCs and local communities. Activities under the RTE project include:
The Learning Centres provide a safe, non-discriminatory and child-friendly environment for children to improve their academic performance. The teachers are trained on lifeskills sexual health issues, use of de-addiction modules, computers, health and hygiene, child rights and so on. Teaching methodologies include use of activity-based modules, creative work and educational games to enable children to participate and improve their knowledge on child issues.
Children also learn lifeskills, reading and writing skills, and improve awareness on child rights, trafficking, child abuse, health and hygiene and importance of education.
Through its collaboration with the Department of Education (Block Education Officer and other officials) and private schools, APSA enables children from marginalized communities to access education in private schools under the RTE’s 25% Reservation category. Regular follow-up is undertaken by APSA field staff to ensure that children studying in these schools do not suffer corporal punishment or discrimination at the hands of teaching staff or students.
APSA works with SDMCs in the 15 government schools of its working areas and capacitates members through training programs, workshops and awareness sessions on current and emerging issues on child rights and education, to better monitor school development plans and budget tracking. Through encouragement of regular SDMC meetings and monitoring activities, APSA instils a sense of ownership and accountability in SDMC members, enables them identify gaps in services and collectivizes them to lobby state duty-bearers to address these gaps.
CRC members involve in community awareness on various issues and have actively participated in preventing illegal garbage dumping, identification of children addicted to alcohol or psychotropic substances and lobbying schools on midday meals and school uniforms, among others.
The RTE project equips Meena Thanda members with awareness on sexual health, hygiene, lifeskills, child rights, RTE and trafficking issues. Members in turn, share their experiences in the field and conduct awareness programs in schools and communities on the importance and value of education for girls as well as issues faced by them socially. Meena Thanda children have also participated in preventing child marriages, child labour, informing the Childline about children in distress and addressing RTE violations in schools.
APSA has found that working with ULBs has enabled smoother implementation of its activities as elected representatives provide assistance with clearances from local administration or government departments for project implementation, gently push government school authorities to improve their functioning and assist local communities to access MLA-allotted budgets for special development work.
Health Camps are organized in the working communities to enable urban poor communities that APSA works with to access free medical care for various minor ailments. Most of the ailments detected around medical camps pertain to vision problems, especially in children, resulting in poor academic performance. The camps give an opportunity for communities to undergo free health check-ups and referred for further treatment if required.
APSA undertakes media advocacy with both electronic and print media, highlighting issues related to RTE violations in government schools and action by community or children’s collectives. Through these collaborations, APSA has highlighted issues related to supply of school uniforms, improvement in infrastructure, midday meals, addressing government benefits for differently abled children and improving the quality of education.