Ekta Lal’s parents enrolled her in school when she was six, but she dropped out when she was 10 years old. The big question is Why did she drop out of school prior to completing her elementary education?
Ekta’s mum wakes her up at 5am each morning to make chapati, she stands alongside her mum each morning to make chapati aka, Indian bread a preferable accompaniment for curries, and most Indian dishes. Each morning after making the chapati she indulges herself in other household chores and cares for her aging grandparents.
In August 2009, the Indian parliament had passed the landmark Right to Education (RTE) Act that made education free and compulsory for children between the ages 6 and 14.
It will be a decade in August since the Indian Parliament passed the Act. In 2010, when the act was implemented, TIME asked:1 “School is a Right, But Will Indian Girls Be Able to Go?” .
1 School Is a Right, but Will Indian Girls Be Able to Go?
Agreed the RTE Act has been successful in attracting girls to schools. However, the schools have struggled in sustaining steady enrollments. In 2006, 10.3 percent of girls between the ages of 11 to 14 were out of school. In 2018, the figure stood at 4.1 percent, a significant decline from previous years. The decline in percentages was worse for girls between ages 15-16.2According to the 2018 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) released in January this year,13.5 percent of girls between the ages 15-16 were out of school, as opposed to more than 20 percent in 2008,
According to a report by 3Centre for Social Research girls in India are seeking and fighting for autonomy and liberation in how they project themselves. And a large part of it has to do with being educated and finding work in cities.
The Parliament of India did make significant strides to overcome obstacles that may have hindered girls from attending schools. 4According to the same ASER report, The proportion of restrooms (toilets) doubled since 2010, reaching 66.4% in 2018, while schools with boundary walls — which ensured a safer environment for girls — increased by 13.4 percent to 64.4% in 2018.
The RTE Act of 2009 is applaudable for the difference it has tried to bring in the lives of the young girls, it is a universally accepted truth that the right to education, is not a privilege but a human right. For those wondering what does this exactly entail.
Education as a human right means:
- the right to education is legally guaranteed for all without any discrimination
- states have the obligation to protect, respect, and fulfil the right to education
- there are ways to hold states accountable for violations or deprivations of the right to education
States in India do not have provisions to ban housework. According, to a recent report by the5 National Commission for Protection of Child Rights around 40 percent of 15 to 18- year-old-girls were out of school, and among them almost 65 percent were engaged in household work.
2The thirteenth Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2018) was released in New Delhi on 15 January 2019
www.csrindina.org 4 The thirteenth Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2018) was released in New Delhi on 15 January 2019
5 National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
Arguably, I see no objection in adolescents doing household chores in and around the house. In fact, household chores benefit adolescence much as they learn to respect and appreciate their surroundings. Notably, it should benefit the children, and not burden them or get in the way of their educational attainment.
Here I offer two policy recommendations for the RTE Act to continue meeting its objective.
Firstly, the RTE Act should have a long-term approach. The policy should remain in place for a significant amount of time, giving the policy a chance to work. The focus should not be structural based, but evidence based. For instance, strategic assessments and monitoring will give the RTE Act ample time to reach its full potential. Policy makers should continue gauging on the opportunities and challenges associated with this policy.
Secondly, policy makers should institute town hall meetings to engage teachers, parents, and students in strengthening the RTE Act. Collective knowledge on this issue will allow policy makers to make a better-informed decision on how to best strengthen and sustain the RTE Act so that it achieves its full objective. Therefore, allowing the RTE ACT ample time to work for the children of India.
The Article Written by
Anjiline Sirsikar is the Founder and CEO of North Atlantic Policy Center.