The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. 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 pay 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.
The landmark provision of section 12.1.C of the Right to Education Act advocates for social inclusion in classrooms by requiring every recognized non-minority private school to reserve 25% seats in pre-primary or class 1 for children aged 3-7 years, belonging to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Disadvantaged Groups (DG), for which schools are reimbursed by the government. This provision continues till class 8. This is a unique Public Private Partnership model that aims at equal access and inclusion in classrooms.
Uttar Pradesh representing 30% of the countries’ total RTE seats, having the potential to impact ~6 lakh children every year across 86,000 private schools in 75 districts, had been an untapped opportunity till 2014 with only 108 cumulative admissions across state since 2011. This lean phase affected enrollment of nearly 48 lakhs beneficiaries, who were supposed to be educated through the RTE Act during this period. The major implementation bottlenecks were ambiguous nature of policy lacking clarity on administration roles and responsibilities, fierce resistance from handful of influential private school lobbies and seemingly unbreakable nexus of politics and state bureaucracy.
— To ensure effective implementation, RightWalk through policy level intervention, built a large scale movement navigating above threatening challenges to break all the barriers and activate this scheme across the state.
— This intervention brought fast paced growth in RTE admission across districts of the Uttar Pradesh. The increment in enrolment figure by 4,400 seats was a laudable record measured for 2015-16 academic session.
— In comparison to 2014-15 with just admission on 54 RTE seat, the year 2016 showed super-efficient 80 times seat conversion improvement. Now onwards, growth trajectory was set for upward movement making the RTE implementation model replicable and sustainable.
— In 2017, Rightwalk partnered with the state govt. to build a Technology-enabled Integrated RTE Online Admission System’ in collaboration with NIC to achieve scale, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, accomplishing 90,000 applications and 27,728 confirmed admissions in UP.
— The portal led to a total 41,508 RTE Allocations in the year 2018.
The government of UP which once looked at RTE as a taboo is now celebrating it as a tool to achieve equality and justice in education. It has been a journey of mindset shift from exclusion to inclusion in politics, bureaucracy, media, public and classrooms. It has since been changing the lives of thousands of children from Economically Weaker Sections, their families, and their communities.