NEW DELHI, India, 1 April 2010 – UNESCO, ILO and UNICEF today joined forces in applauding the ground-breaking Right to Education Act, legalising the right to free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 6 and 14 in India.
“Tens of millions of children will benefit from this initiative ensuring quality education with equity,” said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Representative in India. “RTE will propel India to even greater heights of prosperity and productivity for all guaranteeing children their right to a quality education and a brighter future.”
There are an estimated eight million Indian children and young people between the ages of six to 14 out-of-school, the majority of whom are girls. Without India, the world cannot reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of having every child complete primary school by 2015.
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“This act is an essential step towards improving each child’s accessibility to secondary and higher education, bringing India closer to achieving national educational development goals, as well as the MDGs and Education for All (EFA),” said UNESCO New Delhi Director Armoogum Parsuramen, commending in particular the Ministry’s commitment to implementing the act in collaboration with the state governments. “UNESCO places the right to education at the heart of its mission, and stands ready to accompany all partners in their efforts to ensure its successful implementation.”
RTE provides a platform to reach the unreached, with specific provisions for disadvantaged groups, such as child labourers, migrant children, children with special needs, or those who have a “disadvantage owing to social, cultural, economical, geographical, linguistic, gender or such other factor.”
Creative and sustained initiatives are crucial to train more than one million new and untrained teachers within the next five years and to reinforce the skills of existing teachers to ensure child-friendly education. Bringing eight million out-of-school children into classes at the age appropriate level with the support to stay in school and succeed poses a major challenge. Substantial efforts are essential to eliminate disparities and ensure quality with equity.
Families and communities also have a large role to play to ensure child-friendly education for each and every one of the estimated 190 million girls and boys in India who should be in elementary school today. School Management Committees, made up of parents, local authorities, teachers and children themselves, will need support to form School Development Plans and monitoring. The inclusion of 50 per cent women and parents of children from disadvantaged groups in these committees should help overcome past disparities.
“RTE presents an opportunity to reach the unreached, particularly the disadvantaged such as child labourers. Considering there is no general minimum age for employment, the act recognizes that children should be in school which is an implicit recognition that they should not be at work,” said André Bogui, Acting Director for ILO’s Sub-Regional Office for South Asia.
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