Ahmedabad: While parents are bearing the brunt of poorly-implemented RTI admissions in the city, a group of motivated students at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIMA) are successfully running a Right to Education Resource Centre (RTERC).
Started in 2013, the centre helps parents fill up forms and ensure that they have all the documents for admission. They also help the education department in the processing of applications. The centre creates awareness about the RTE quota itself, and is now reaching out to youths in different states and cities to encourage them to start similar centres in their areas.
Ahmedabad was hardly able to admit approximately 30-40 children from economically weaker sections of society in the academic year 2013. The centre, initially started as an action research project by Ashish Ranjan and Sarvotham Shetty (IIMA – 2014) under the guidance of Professor Ankur Sarin, is looking into the implementation processes of three different states – Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. After visiting education departments, the centre’s volunteers called a meeting of schools and parents, where they realised that there was no awareness of RTE reserved quota admission process.
The centre’s volunteers also educate the parents about their rights. In 2014, they received approximately 1,800 applications, out of which the state declared that more than 600 applicants were eligible. This year, the centre has received around 5,000 applications. It has collaborated with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and ICDS to reach out to more than 400 aganwadis to spread awareness. This was a voluntary effort by more than 100 students across various colleges like IIMA, MICA, CEPT, NIRMA in Ahmedabad.
Sarin, a professor of public policy and social entrepreneurship, said, “We have observed that most parents back out even after admission is confirmed in the school through this process. The reason behind this is that private schools discourage them. If there is a school having two mediums, Gujarati and English, the school will ask the parent to take admission in Gujarati and not English. Our only request to the government is that we want the government to bring more accountability in the system and involve every stakeholder to get this policy implemented.”
The students, who are working with this centre, are now visiting different cities to meet college students to encourage them to open such resource centres in their cities too and help underprivileged groups in the admission process of RTE. Vasundhara Sharma, who has recently joined the initiative, said, “It is a great experience to see how our efforts can provide opportunities to underprivileged children as they are the future of our nation.”
“Working on ground and interacting with parents and school officials, we figured out some of the roadblocks and gaps in the implementation. I hope our research and campaign will be helpful to overcome such gaps in the upcoming years.” says Nishank Varshney, research associate at RTERC, looking after RTE implementation in Maharashtra.
“If a third party is making money by charging parents for filling RTE applications, then I think the government has failed to implement the policy,” said Sarin.
The resource centre also tries to involve young students in the area of policy implementation. They had conducted a 5-day orientation program for people who were interested in knowing about different government policies. They were given a 10 day-long practical lesson, where they went to their cities to find out how their respective states have implemented policies they wished to know about.
The IIM-A, Central Square Foundation, Accountability Initiative and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, will be launching a report titled ‘State of the Nation: RTE Section 12(1)(c)’ on March 24. The RTE quota, if implemented effectively, can create opportunities for 1.6 crore children from disadvantaged communities across the country. This is an attempt to understand Section 12(1)(c), which mandates the 25 per cent quota, from a multi-perspective point of view. “One of the most important aspects of the report is that we discuss the best practices, from state rules, DISE and field studies in the hope that these will be picked up and implemented by other states so that we are moving towards full implementation,” said Sunaina and Praveen, the authors of the report.
If you want to help start a RTE Resource Center in your city, please visit: www.rterc.in
Admissions in Ahmedabad under RTE quota in 2013: 30
No. of applications received by the RTERC in 2014: 1,800
No. of students admitted under RTE in Ahmedabad in 2014: 600 (approximate)
No. of applications received by RTERC this year: 5,000
Source: DNA India