India's historic Right to Education act: Why everyone should support Haq Banta Hai

Nearly 200,000 people have joined the 'Haq Banta Hai' campaign to make education a reality of every child in India. Will you?

India enacted the historic Right to Education (RTE) legislation in 2009, nearly 7 years after making elementary education a fundamental right through a constitutional amendment in 2002. The RTE Act that came into force in April 2010 provides for 8 years of free and compulsory education to all the children between the ages of 6 and 14 years. Thanks to RTE Act, today 199 million children are in school and studying. However, still 6 million children between 6 and 13 years are out of school and majority (75%) of those out of school children belong to three most socially marginalized communities – Dalits (32.4%), Tribals (16.6%) and Muslims (25.7%).

Merely enrolling children is not enough.

That's why the Act has clearly laid down standards and norms to ensure that children are in school, happy and learning. The Indian Government had set a final deadline of 31st March 2015 to fully comply with all the norms and standards – infrastructure, trained teachers, evaluation method, etc of the Act. However, only 8% of the schools in the country fully comply with all RTE Act norms as of now.

The 31st March deadline has been missed, and at the current rate of compliance, it will take India 63 more years to reach full compliance. Schools not complying fully with the RTE Act norms have a huge impact on retaining children who are already in school and the quality of education being imparted to them. This is one of the chief reasons why 2 out every 5 children drop out before completing elementary education. Early drop out from school is a major contributor to insecure employment, poor working conditions and lower wages later in life (ILO 2006).

People take to the streets urging Education Minister Smriti Irani to chart a roadmap for full Right to Education (RTE) compliance. Credit: Oxfam India

People take to the streets urging Education Minister Smriti Irani to chart a roadmap for full Right to Education (RTE) compliance. Credit: Oxfam India

Inequality in India is rising at an alarming rate.

Education plays an important role in reducing inequality or as some say education is the biggest equalizer against inequality. Brazil, B of the BRICS has shown that ensuring basic education to all can create a more equal distribution of human capital which would eventually lead to reduction in labour market inequality (Paxton 2012). Investing in basic education certainly plays an important role in creating more equal societies. Hence, by ensuring full implementation of Right To Education Act, India can achieve two things -- (1) quality education for all children and (2) reduction in inequality.

To make education a reality of every child in India, Oxfam India and its partners are calling on civil society groups and individuals to join the 'Haq Banta Hai' campaign (I have the right). As part of the campaign, Oxfam India initiated an online petition asking the Education Minister to come out with a clear and accountable road-map to achieve full implementation of the RTE Act within next 3 years immediately.

Let's make basic education a reality for children in India.

Already, close to 200,000 individuals have signed this petition, and we are targeting to get at least 500,000 signatures within a month's time from across India and the world. Your support to this campaign by signing the petition will be significant in making basic education a reality of millions of children in India. You can also see how individual districts in India are performing on RTE Act through this interactive online tool created by us.

What you can do now

Help make education a reality for every child in India

This entry posted by Deepak Xavier, Essential Services Lead, Oxfam India, on 9 April 2015.

Top photo: Women signing the Haq Banta Hai petition in Delhi. Credit: Oxfam India

Every child has the right to education.

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