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RTE in areas of conflict

RTE in areas of conflict

 The Right to Education Act (RTE) mandates that every child has the fundamental right to free and compulsory elementary education in India. March 31, 2013, is the deadline set for full implementation of the Act. However, several challenges need to be overcome, especially to provide education for children in areas of conflict.
    In the Indian context, three regions experience varying degrees of conflict — Maoist-affected areas, Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. ‘Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas,’ a report of an Expert Group of the Planning Commission (2008) indicated that 182 districts in 20 states are affected by Maoist insurgency, while J&K and NE have been facing strife for many years now.
    A two-day National Consultation on Education in Areas Affected by Civil Strife was held in the Capital recently. “Although there have been challenges, it is heartening to see the efforts made by the community, government and civil society organisations in enabling children to continue schooling. The importance of community participation, making schools ‘Zones of Peace’ and focusing on special groups like orphans and internally displaced children are some lessons that need to be shared and scaled,” said Urmila Sarkar, chief of education, Unicef-India office.
    The consultation was inaugurated by MM Pallam Raju, minister of Human Resources Development, and was jointly organised by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), National University of Educational Planning & Administration (NUEPA) and Unicef. The consultation discussed the issues and challenges of implementing RTE in areas affected by civil strife with a focus on advancing quality education with equity.
    The most vulnerable group in areas of conflict is children. “Any kind of emergencies — be it natural disasters or civil strife — affects their homes, upsets their daily life, availability of food, education and health, among other factors. They are at risk to injuries, disease, malnutrition, and recruitment to the armed forces, sexual abuse, and so on. They are caught between competing ideologies and their education suffers,” said Sanjeev Rai, national manager, education, Save the Children India.
    Focusing on the critical need for quality education in these areas, Dhir Jhingran, RTE National Co-ordinator, RTE Monitoring Cell, NCPCR, said: “There is a need to have a different cadre of teachers to engage with children affected by strife. We need to prepare this cadre that will understand the children’s particular needs and promote learning through quality teaching. We need to review and revamp pre and in-service teacher training for teachers in these areas.” Expressing similar views, Venita Kaul, director, Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development, Ambedkar University, Delhi, reiterated that teachers must be given incentives to encourage them to work in areas of conflict.
    When it comes to implementation of RTE in conflict areas, one must keep in mind that there is conflict within and outside the school. One has to understand the roots of violence through research. According to Sarkar, there is a need to have state-level dialogues to understand the context and develop effective policies. “We also need to learn from good practices. In Nepal, all parties involved in the conflict discussed and came out with a code of conduct. Schools were promoted as peace zones,” she added. Over 100 representatives from central and state government, civil society organisations, media, UN agencies, academicians and community members participated in the consultation, a culmination of a year-long work of a National Steering Committee convened by NCPCR, NUEPA and Unicef. KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
Schools need to become inclusive spaces and examine the violence within the schools, that comes from discrimination in various forms Harmonise different teacher cadre, ensure appropriate remuneration and facilities, security, psycho-social care for teachers Issues of child protection, health and psycho-social care need to be addressed Effective multi-layered child tracking system a must Community participation and role of school management committees and gram panchayats critical in ensuring schooling for children Need to build a cadre of community mobilisers/facilitators who can work both with community and the system Promote engagement of youth as mobilisers, role models & champions

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