Syyed Mansoor Agha analyses the NCPCR study that intends to bring Minority-managed schools and madrasas under the ambit of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and do away the exemption from 25% quota granted to EWS.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which works under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, suo moto conducted a study of schools run by minority communities (Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis). The stated objective was to assess the “Impact of Exemption under Article 15 (5) with regards to Article 21A of the Constitution of India on Education of Minority Communities” and to “find ways to ensure that children from minority communities get quality elementary education.”

Reports suggest that the study was quite Madrasa-centric. It mainly recommended bringing Minority-managed institutions, including all Madrasas, recognised or unrecognised, under the ambit of ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ and doing away exemption from (25 per cent) quota for free education granted to economically weaker and disadvantaged section (EWS) by the law and the SC.

QUOTA FOR EWS

Under Section 12(1)(c)  of the “Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009,” it is mandatory for all private primary schools to allot a minimum 25 per cent seats for children of EWS for free. According to the rules, “a candidate with annual family income less than Rs. 8 lakhs is entitled of free education till 14 years of age provided the family does not own more than 5 acres of agriculture land and/or a residence of above 1000 sq. feet.”

ILLOGICAL CALL

However, the RTE Act exempted Minority institutions from the quota. NCPCR recommended doing away with these exemptions and enforcing 25 per cent reservation even in all Madrasas and unaided schools run by Minorities ostensibly to “enhance literacy”. It looks illogical even under the findings of NCPCR study itself. 

The report is based upon an analysis of data from 23,481 schools. A breakup of religious minority-wise schools shows that the share of Muslim Minority Children Population among all Minority children is 69.18 per cent. But their share in Minority Schools, including registered Madrasas, is only 22.75 per cent. It is in stark contrast of Christians with 11.54 per cent of the minority population, but run 71.96 per cent of total Minority managed schools. The Sikhs with a population is 9.78 per cent run only 1.54 per cent, and Jains with 1.9 per cent population run 1.56 per cent of schools.

Interestingly, Minority schools are not averse to admitting non-minority students. This study found that 62.50 per cent of students in such schools belonged to non-minorities. The report noted that Christians-managed schools fetch 74 per cent of students from non-minority communities. It shows non-Minorities are benefitted in a big way from Minority-managed schools.

THE DISMAY

The report expressed dismay that the institutions imparting religious education such as Madrasas, Vedic Pathshalas, Gumpas (Buddhist system) do not provide basic education as per Section 29 of the RTE Act. It stressed that “both, Section 12(1)(c) and Section 29 of the RTE Act are important to maintain the principles of ‘secularism’ and ‘equality of opportunity’ as enshrined in the Preamble of Constitution of India.”

EWS – MISCALCULATED

The report made an illusory observation that Minority institutions fetch only 8.76 per cent of EWS students. The fact is that an overwhelming number of children in Madrasas come from the bottom of “Educationally and Economically Disadvantaged Muslim Sections.” In most cases, they constitute the first of the family literates. Minority institutions greatly add on the national literacy rate and deserve appreciation and state support.

The report acknowledged that the largest number of out-of-school children – at least 1.1 crores belong to Muslim minorities. It means the community needs state support to establish their own managed school for all left-out children. Still, the report recommended bringing all minority schools, including Madrasas (recognised and unrecognised) under the purview of the Right to Education and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan campaign. NCPCR also backed reservations for students from minority communities in such schools. We suggest since the Muslim community is economically and educationally deprived, a special category of “Educationally Weak Community” (EWC) should be created for them, and special provisions of reservation in all schools be granted to them.

MISS-CATEGORISATION

The report is erroneous in categorising Muslim-managed schools under the solo heading of ‘Madrasas’. There are thousands of pre-Primary, Primary, Junior High Schools, and High Schools with modern curriculum managed by the community. Most of them did not succeed in procuring official Minority Certification. The Madrasas are rightly categorised as (a) Recognised and registered and impart education with the mixed curriculum, (b) Unrecognised: Not registered by state governments, and (c) Unmapped. The report rightly pointed out that the Sachar Committee Report, which says 4 per cent of Muslim children (15.3 lakh) attend madrasas, has only taken into account the registered madrasas and did not count unregistered or unmapped ones.

CERTIFICATION

As for the question of certification, it may be noted that in several states, including UP and Delhi, to procure Minority Status Certifications for Muslim-managed schools is a task as difficult as boiling the ocean. The UPA Government created a quasi-judicial body, the “National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI)” to adjudicate upon such cases. Its orders can be challenged only in HCs. Under Justice (Rtd.) S. A. Siddiqui did a commanding job. Unfortunately, after his retirement and the regime change, it had become almost defunct. This abdication is a violation of the rights of the Minorities enshrined in the Constitution of India. Article 30(1) says: “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.” Article 29(1) gives every citizen the right to conserve its distinct language, script, and culture of its own. While Article 29(2) protects them, it is more for every citizen and is not specially tailored for minority groups. Article 30(2) states that the government should not discriminate against any institution under minority management.

Under Article 32, they had a right not only to establish and administer institutes of their choice but they also had the right to an affiliation (to operate independently, but also has a formal collaborative agreement with the state). Violation of these articles is against the spirit of the UN declaration on ‘Survival, Protection, and Development of Children’ of 1990 under which effect NCPCR was created, so it should be its concern.

THE SURGE

The report complained that there was a surge in the number of schools securing Minority Status Certificate after the 93rd Amendment in 2006, with more than 85 per cent of the total schools securing the certificate in the years 2005-2009. In fact, the progress was due to the intervention of NCMEI.

It also complained of a “second surge” in 2010-14, after the 2012 Society judgment that made Sections 12(1)(c) and 18(3) of the RTE Act, 2009 inapplicable to unaided minority schools. In 2014, the Pramati judgment made the whole of the RTE Act inapplicable to minority schools.

Despite these “surges”, as the report pointed out, the overall count of minority institutions, especially under the Muslim minority, is adversely disproportionate to the population of their children. In place of toiling to indicate ‘deficiencies’ in the system, we humbly suggest that NCPCR take a call for poor proficiency of school-going children and also for all out-of-the-school children.

NEIGHBOURHOOD SCHOOLS

Secondly, RTE Act does not provide only a quota for EWS but also mandates neighbourhood schools. ‘The Central RTE Rules’ notified under Section 6 of the Act make it mandatory for the states to provide Primary School within one kilometre radius and within 3 kilometres of an upper primary school. It will serve the whole children population if NCPCR conducts a survey to study in compliance with this obligation and suggest the government accordingly. The more you bring schools closer to homes, the more literacy rate and other standards will improve. It will also help promote unbiased modern education for all. National concern for the literacy and development of children demands assessment and impact of non-availability of a school in the neighbourhood. If we can afford to acquire land, displacing dozens of villages for an airport, why can’t land be procured in poverty-ridden neighbourhoods for schools?

[The writer is Chairman, Forum for Civil Rights. email: [email protected]]

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