Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 / Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)

1. Interventional strategies for Special Training:-

1. Section 4 of the RTE Act provides that where a child above six years of age has not been admitted to any school and though admitted, could not complete elementary education, then he /she shall be admitted to an age appropriate class provided that when a child is directly admitted in order to ensure that she is at par with others he/ she shall have a right to be provided special training. Strategies used for alternative or non-formal education in the past have been aligned to conform to the RTE provisions of Special Training (ST) for out of school children (OoSC) who must be academically assisted for admission to an age appropriate class in a regular school.

2. Definition of out of school child:-

2.1 There is no standard definition for clarifying children who are “out of school”. Varied approaches have been adopted in different parts of the country. For clarity on the concept, the following standard definition is suggested:

2.2 “ A child 6-14 years of age will be considered out of school if he / she has never been enrolled in an elementary school or if after enrolment has been absent from school without prior intimation for reasons of absence for a period of 45 days or more”.

3. Out of school children:-

3.1 Several studies have shown that children who still remain out of school fall in the `hardest to reach’ or ‘most vulnerable’ categories. While rapid increase in enrolment and attendance has occurred among children from poor households, the poorer localities still have OoSC who are left out of the system. Within local communities there are pockets of exclusion from schools, with high presence of SC, ST, street children, orphans/homeless children, migrant children, denotified/ primitive tribal groups etc. Gender is a cross-cutting category which overlaps other disadvantages.

3.2 NSSO data shows that the number of out of school boys in 10-13 years age group is higher. In spite of the focus on inclusive education in SSA, children with special needs (CWSN) are still out of mainstream schooling. This was highlighted in the IMRB- SRI survey on OoSC in 2009 that estimated 29 lakh CWSN in the age group of 6-13 years, of which 34.12% were not in school. There are also children who do not fall into well recognized categories and are socially invisible or ostracized.

3.3 While the “never enrolled” children maybe increasingly integrated within the system over the next few years, the issue of drop outs will need sustained mechanism to address it.

Besides social and economic reasons, the school system has perhaps been unable to connect with vulnerable children and make the education process relevant and valuable for them. School dropouts cite lack of interest in school, negative experience in schools and a sense of under
achievement, as the primary reasons for dropping out, in many surveys. Schools can also ‘push out’ children in a larger social context, where disadvantaged children feel a sense of alienation in the school’s expectations, whether of hygiene, of regularity, of punctuality in reaching school and so on.

4. Role of Local Authority:

4.1 Section 9 of the RTE Act gives the Local Authority (basically PRIs and ULBs) the responsibility of identifying OoSC and organizing ST. This will necessitate a close interaction of Local Authority with School headmasters/teachers on a sustained basis. Specific guidelines need
to be issued as to how and in what ways the Local Authority and schools will organize identification, organizing and monitoring of OoSC in the State/UT RTE Rules.

4.2 The Local Authority has also been vested with the function of listing the names of every child in the village/ habitation register. The register should be standardized to have age and gender wise details which will be reviewed in the meetings of Gram Panchayat or its education Sub-Committee, at regular intervals. If a child is found to be out of school for any reason, it should be discussed and followed up by the Local Authority to enable the child to join school.

The Local Authority can involve parents, other village community members and motivate them to send the child to school. The Local Authority can also be a pressure group on employers, in case of child labour situations, to release the child and send her to school.

4.3 The Local Authority has to ensure coverage of all OoSC in ST in the neighbourhood or if circumstances so demand, in a residential Special Training facility. They must also monitor the attendance of OoSC in these centres their subsequent age appropriate mainstreaming in schools.

4.4 The Local Authority and neighbourhood school must ensure that children taken up in ST are first registered in the regular school and records must clearly show the details of ST in which she is covered.

5. Special Training for 6- 14 years:

5.1 ST is a critical component under the RTE Act with a medium term vision. It should be approached not merely as a time-bound interim initiative, but as a mechanism to make the schooling system responsive to the needs of children from diverse back grounds. Other than addressing needs of the OoSC in the medium term, the ST must feed back into the system to ensure that children are retained in regular classes.

5.2 ST must be provided in the same academic year as the one in which the identification of OoSC has taken place.

6. Implementation Approach:

6.1 ST should be guided by flexibility and innovation at multiple levels- in the curriculum, in the pedagogy, the strategy, its implementation, in teacher training and in the management. There are activities and processes which will precede and follow the actual teaching learning in ST which interalia may be as follows:

6.2 Identification: For identification, keeping track of children who are absent for long stretches is important as such children are at the risk of becoming school dropouts sooner or later if they are not tracked.

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