RTE: An Inalienable Right

  • September 26, 2017
  • 12:34 am
  • Priyanshi Chandrawat

The Right to Education is an inalienable right for every child, adolescent and young person, according to the Declaration of the Universal Rights of the Child and Adolescents, in international conventions to which the Dominican Republic is a signatory in our own Constitution. The principle is that no country should violate this right of their child, adolescent and youth population, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sex or social class. The law on education establishes that every child and adolescent must be registered at a school, whether they have documents. Even so, this law has been broken and it continues to be violated at schools all-around the country daily.

By being excluded from the educational system this population is denied the opportunity for human development. The studies on juvenile delinquency have shown us that young people who engage in criminal activities are not in the educational system. This exclusion (which is wrongly known as desertion) is the result of many factors such as a rigid system that expels young people for wearing earrings, having tattoos, for fighting, repeating a grade, adolescent pregnancies and socioeconomic conditions.

The educational system excludes a significant and growing proportion of young people and adolescents who do not have documents, including many Dominicans of Haitian origin. This could become a serious citizen security problem for the country. By keeping an increasing number of adolescents and young people outside the educational system we are widening the social gaps and adding to the number of young people who engage in criminal activities. Can the country strive to eradicate drug trafficking if young people are being expelled from schools and a state of permissiveness and complicity with drug trafficking continues to exist? Can measures be taken against citizen safety if they leave the adolescent and youth population vulnerable and unprotected?

The right to education ensures access to quality schools and to an education that is directed towards the full development of the human personality. National Economic and Social Rights Initiative uses six priority human rights principles in our work that is fundamental to guaranteeing the right to education and are of particular relevance to education reform efforts in the United States: They are Individual Rights, Dignity, Equity, Non-Discrimination, Participation and the development of each child’s personality and full potential, preparing children to participate in society and to do work that is rewarding and reasonably remunerative, and to continue learning throughout life.

The Right to Education is protected by:

  • Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Article 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • Article 28, 29 and 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Article 5 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discriminations.
  • Articles 10 and 14 of Convention on the Elimination of All of the Discrimination Against Women.
  • Article 12 of American Declaration on the Rights of Man.

In India, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act also known as RTE, is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted on 4 August 2009, which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child when the act came into force on 1 April 2010.

The title of the RTE Act incorporates the words ‘free and compulsory’. ‘Free education’ means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the appropriate Government, shall be liable to any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. ‘Compulsory education’ casts an obligation on the appropriate government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group. With this, India has moved forward to a right based framework that casts a legal obligation on the Central and State Governments to implement this fundamental child right as enshrined in the Article 21A of the Constitution, in accordance with the provisions of the RTE Act 17.

Present Act has its history in the drafting of the Indian constitution at the time of independence but is more specific to the Constitutional Amendment of 2002 that included the Article 21A in the Indian Constitution making Education a fundamental Right. This amendment, however, specified the need for a legislation to describe the mode of implementation of the same which necessitated the drafting of a separate Education Bill. It is the 86th amendment in the Indian Constitution.

The act has been criticized for being hastily drafted, not consulting many groups active in education, not considering the quality of education, infringing on the rights of private and religious minority schools to administer their system, and for excluding children under six years of age. Many of the ideas are seen as continuing the policies of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan of the last decade and the World Bank Funded District Primary Education Programme DPEP of the 90s, both of which, while having set up many schools in rural areas, have been criticized for being ineffective and corruption ridden. The quality of education provided by the government school system is not good. 80% of all recognized schools, it suffers from the shortage of teachers and infrastructural gaps. Several habitations lack schools altogether. There are also frequent allegations of government schools being riddled with absenteeism and mismanagement and of appointments made on political convenience. It is a fraud on our children. It gives neither free education nor compulsory education. In fact, it only legitimizes the present multi layered, inferior quality school education system where discrimination shall continue to prevail.

Education is a fundamental pillar of human development. It is completely paradoxical to aim for reducing and eradicating poverty and inequality (Millennium Development Goals) on the one hand, while on the other hand, the social gaps are widening due to the persistent practice of excluding children and young people from the education system. These all combine to lead to an increase in juvenile delinquency and citizen insecurity.