As we, particularly the teaching community, are well-acquainted and aware, the Right to Education Act-2009 under Article 21A of the constitution of India states: “All children between the ages of 6 to 14 years shall have the right to free and compulsory elementary education at a neighbourhood school.”
Here, free education includes the provisions of free textbooks, uniforms, admission, cooked MDM, stationery items and special educational materials for the differently-abled children in order to reduce the burden of school expenses. But it is sad to see that, in the name of free education, the students are enjoying only free textbooks and midday meals.
In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020-21 academic session was successfully wound up or completed with the cooperation, supervision and guidance of teachers, heads of schools and block education officers, without receiving any kind of grant-in-aid from the government.
The RTE Act-2009 strictly instructs that no child is liable to pay fees or any other charges that may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
On the other hand, in Arunachal Pradesh, the state government is displaying a lackadaisical attitude towards releasing school composite grants-in-aid from past academic session for 2020-21. Here, composite grants meant ‘for purchasing stationery items to conduct examinations, teaching aids for classroom teaching-learning process, repair of minor damages in the school infrastructures’, etc. If the state government won’t release the school grants in due course of time, it would be a big challenge for the school authorities to run the schools smoothly.
Among the teaching-learning materials, chalk pays a vital role during classroom transaction. Nowadays, the teachers prefer to use coloured marker pens because every school has a white board which was issued by the department concerned but without pen or chalk. The school authority or teacher in-charge has to manage these materials, costing Rs 30 per piece.
During the academic session, there will a students’ evaluation for two times through examination with pen and paper. That is, half-yearly examination shall be conducted in the middle part and the annual examination at the ending of the session.
To conduct examination, it will cost Rs 250 per student. Apart from that, there will be a miscellaneous expenditure for different types of forms or formats to be filled up, viz, MPR for teachers, students, U-DISE and MDM, which are supposed to be submitted at the DDSE’s office through the BEO/BRC/CRC. In short, we may say an official paper works to be done in a due time.
Here, I would like to highlight some official works culture which is being widely practiced in west Kameng district. The officers or officials in-charge at the DDSE’s establishment branch, whether ISSE cell or general, they only forwarded PDF forms or formats through mobile WhatsApp to the block officer/officials concerned and the same thing is carried forward by them and sent to heads of schools. They ask us to printouts of these forms from cyber cafe. Ultimately, the teacher in-charge has to bear all these expenses. Even we have to bear the transportation charges for collection of sports items, textbooks, etc, from DDSE office to our respective schools in Bhalukpong (distance covered 100 kms) and MDM items, including rice and nutritional items from fair price shop to schools (distance covered l-2 kms). For that, once I have had raised my voice and had a healthy debates with our immediate authority over telephonic and WhatsApp, but the rest are remaining as mute spectators and just scrolling their smartphones and reading messages. Some indigestible work culture is being practiced in the office but nobody has dared to raise his or her voices for the benefits or sake of our school children.
Hence, the main motive of the teachers or school authority is to impart quality education as well as to run the academic session smoothly. So, in such a situation the school authorities are bound to charge some nominal fees from the students after due consultation with the SMC and parents. In this entire episode, ultimately the innocent students and their parents are targeted and victimized alongside the heads of schools. In this way, the RTE Act-2009 is being violated unintentionally. Such type of situation and problems are happening in government-run schools of Arunachal Pradesh.
Let’s hope for the best as the state government has declared 2021 as the ‘Year of Education’.
Dama Miji Zongluju,
TGT Teacher in-charge,
Govt Middle School,