Schools, Muslims and RTE act

Discrimination-free schools, Muslims and RTE act

By Nadim Nikhat,
[This paper is based on lecture delivered by the author in National Seminar on “Right to Education Act and Its Implementation” organized by Al-Ameen College of Education, Bangalore]
Children being non-essential or a weak constituency and have no ‘ballet value’ for the policy makers. They themselves are a non-actor, leaving behind a very little room to negotiate for them in an indirect and representative democracy. Though. Children are always at the receiving end despite the fact that they are the only claims holder or beneficiary of fundamental right to elementary education. This is perhaps one of the reasons why it took 60 years to legislate on this basic guarantee to elementary education.
It makes the task of evolving a democratic and inclusive education system in general and schools in particular, a very difficult task. Children’s cause are quite often looked from the point of approach of parents, families, caste, tribes, community and society at large.
Families, caste, tribes, communities and society, generally are carriers of ethos, values, mores and culture etc. but truly not the only carrier. These values are necessarily not always in sync with the constitutional ethos and are usually patriarchal, feudal, castist and communal/religious and are based on inclusion and exclusion, hence largely discriminatory in nature.
Therefore, in order to make institution of schools democratic, participative and inclusive and free from discrimination, these institutions including the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) should have to be made democratic, participative and inclusive and free from discrimination. Education and/or school is both means and end to achieve equity but education alone and itself cannot emancipate but simultaneously education has to be emancipated from the discriminatory ethos perpetuated by these institutions.
In other words an active citizenship will transform the institution of education in to an active, inclusive and discrimination free institution and an active, inclusive and discrimination free institution of education will progressively develop an active citizenship. This will not happen in isolation.
Many reports and studies such as Justice Rajindar Sachar Commission’s Report and the Position Paper on SC and ST and Girl’s education by National Curriculum Framework, NCERT, have shown than SC, ST, Religious Minorities and girl child are subjected to discriminatory and exclusionary practices in elementary schools by teachers and children from dominant caste and religion groups, which leads to low enrollment, high crop out rates amongst children from these communities and class. These reports have expressed an imminent need to make schools more inclusive, in line with the principles of equality enshrined and guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
India has enacted a progressive legislation called the Right of Children to free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE Act) to universalize elementary education irrespective of caste, class, gender and religious identities. Till now, nine states namely, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Orissa, Rajasthan and Sikkimhave passed their Rulesand six Union Territories namelyAndaman Nikobar,Chandigarh, Dadar Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Pondicherry have adopted Central Government’s Model Rule. Even after one and half years, twenty states including Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat,Haryana, J&K, Jharkhand, Karnataka,Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and West Bengal have not passed their State Rules.
RTE Act intends to promote and provide discrimination free schools and empowers the community and local self-governance bodies to play key role in monitoring and redressing discrimination in schools.
Minority Perspective
The poor representation of Muslimminority children at pre-primary as well as primary levels was emphasized by Justice Rajindar Sachar Commission Report. It was also noted about the discrimination faced by Muslim children in accessing anganwadis and primary schools.

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