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project-right-to-education In

Right To Education (RTE)

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:

  1. Work through Learning Centres
    APSA offers remedial classes through Learning Centres for school dropouts, out-of-school children and children from nearby government schools in need of additional coaching without which they would make for potential dropouts. Specific focus on girl children ensures that they have the opportunity to access schooling, thus reducing dropouts and enabling children to re-enrol in age-appropriate mainstream schooling.

    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.

  2. Work with government schools and private schools under the RTE’s 25% Reservation
    APSA works with 15 government schools in its working areas on improving the quality of education and practical implementation of the RTE Act. APSA works with the heads of schools, teaching staff and around 2,500 children on issues of child and gender rights, the importance of education, responsibilities of school administration and better teaching methodologies. Through its interventions, APSA has made it possible for children from these government schools to access clean and safe drinking water, midday meals, uniforms, separate toilet facilities for girls and boys, learning facilities through libraries, recreational spaces such as playgrounds, improved school infrastructure (buildings, classrooms, office rooms and compound walls) and accessing government scholarships.

    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.

  3. Work with School Development & Monitoring Committees (SDMCs)
    SDMCs are the monitoring and tracking committee for government school facilities, teaching methodologies, budget utilization, quality of education and infrastructure. As many SDMC members’ children are enrolled in government schools, they have an increased commitment towards monitoring the quality of education and infrastructure of the schools as well as encouraging involvement of local community involvement in the monitoring process.

    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.

  4. Work with Child Rights Clubs (CRCs)
    APSA believes that children have a right to participate in raising and lobbying on their issues. Towards this objective, APSA facilitates formation of Child Rights Clubs (an initiative by the government under the RTE Act) in the government schools it works with. Each CRC has between 15 to 20 members, who are capacitated to review various aspects of school functioning such as health and hygiene, quality of education and infrastructure, teaching methods, and issues affecting children such as midday meals or RTE violations and lobby school heads and local administration in addressing these issues.

    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.

  5. Work with Meena Thandas
    With special focus on addressing empowerment of girl children, APSA also institutes ‘Meena Thandas’ in schools. These clubs are comprised exclusively of girls, the name originating from a story about a young girl, Meena and her love for education and learning. Meena is prevented from going to school because she was expected to stay at home, help her mother with household chores and care for her younger siblings. An important incident changes the course of her life and subsequently, her family’s perspective of education for girls. Meena Thandas were instituted primarily to prevent school dropouts among young girl children, a common phenomenon in urban slum communities. The Meena Thanda operates on the fundamental belief that girls have an equal right to education, enabling and empowering them to make important life decisions in the future.

    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.

  6. Work with Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)
    ULBs consist of elected representatives who have an obligation to deliver on assurances to the constituencies that elect them. These include basic amenities and access to entitlements such as health, proper sanitation and drainage and civic amenities such as roads, electricity, safe drinking water and education for children. In partnering ULBs, the RTE project supports their fulfilling electoral responsibilities, while simultaneously empowering local communities to take up child rights-related issues with them.

    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.

  7. Work with local communities
    APSA conducts area meetings and sensitization programs in the urban slum communities of its working areas to educate them on RTE-related issues, child rights and the role of SDMCs in government school monitoring. Many community members do not think very highly of government schools, preferring to put their children into private ones. They incur great debts in doing so and put themselves into a perpetual debt-poverty cycle. Through awareness programs and enrolment campaigns, APSA is able to make local communities aware of the efficacy and benefits of government schools and encourage them to send their children (particularly girls) to school.

    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.

  8. Work with the Media
    The media plays an increasingly important role in highlighting community and child-related issues in a responsible and gender-sensitive manner. There is also increasing pressure from civil society organizations on media to highlight social justice issues. Such collaborations not only benefit work with child rights issues, but enable media persons to become sensitized to such issues. It also provides a platform to showcase cases of child rights violations or success stories of positive community-based action, which can be used to lobby state duty-bearers on effective RTE implementation.

    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.