There has been a feeling of missed opportunity with the Right to Education Act. Still good sections have been looking forward to its notification. Whatever little enthusiasm notification generated has subsided with Union budget 2010-11, where no new initiatives has been proposed and there is a modest increase in allocation of resources. This paper proposes that if we take a dynamic view of current situation then CSOs can still be hopeful and invest on processes that will pave the way for next round of legislative changes and redefining of development priorities. For the first time a large numbers of parents will get mobilized through SMCs (more importantly SMCs will be headed by a Parent). SMCs can be facilitated to federate at Cluster and Block level to carve space for their mutual learning (rather being dependent on government machinery) and learn how to make government machinery and legislatures accountable. LOKMITRA, an NGO working in Raebareli district has practiced the concept of federating SMC and evolving them as Block Parent Association. Emerging leaderships from SMC/PA have been involved at district and state level advocacy in alliance with NGOs. This also proves that even poor parents are interested in quality education, not just poor schooling. Along with this Lokmitra has promoted another practice of Teachers Learning Forum. These two practices are showing the pathway for local mobilization for larger and sustained change in education scenario and system. We can look forward to 1st April, the day RtE comes to force, in this positive context.
Overall approach and strategy of Lokmitra Education Program
Lokmitra believes that it is government’s responsibility to provide quality elementary education to all children. Despite constitutional provisioning, government has not made whole hearted effort. Consequently majority of government schools, where deprived children come, languish in poor quality. With the launch of SSA there has been some improvement in access, but poor attendance and learning remains a major concern. Problem persists due to absence of any major systemic reform. Shortage of teachers in many schools along with their poor motivation and accountability remains a persistent problem.
Some NGOs support government education system but their efforts have been compartmentalized, not addressing root causes and not attempting broad based system level change through multi-stakeholder engagement. Lokmitra has taken more strategic role, as compared to others, by aiming to impact structural causes of inequity and injustice in provision of quality education to all girls and boys. LOKMITRA wants to promote systemic improvement based on decentralization, local accountability and teachers’ autonomy. Lokmitra engages with Education System of Uttar Pradesh in multi-pronged and multi-level manner to generate ideas and practices that could be adopted by the system for wider replication. Lokmitra has developed two good practices to mobilize deprived parents and school teachers. Lokmitra has been promoting a coalition of NGOs & Parents Associations, covering most districts of Uttar Pradesh. State level advocacy started in 2006 with convention of parents from 10 districts. During Assembly Election Campaign, idea of coalition of Basic Shiksha Manch emerged, while taking a collectively prepared Charter of Demand to contestants. More advocacy events on RTE Bill in 2008 and 2009 by inviting political parties, distinguished persons (Vinod Raina, Anil Sadgopal). Campaign during Lok Sabha Election. Through BSM about 200 NGOs from about 60 districts have been mobilized.
Mobilization of Parents through SMC and Parent Association
Lokmitra has promoted SMCs of Parents in 250 government schools of six Blocks of Raebareli. In three Block these SMCs have got federated as Block level Parent Associations....