In a study undertaken by the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) titled Impact of Exemption under Article 15 (5) with regards to Article 21A of the Constitution of India on Education of Minority Communities, the child rights body has recommended to the government to bring all minority schools under the ambit of Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan campaign.
At present, the minority schools don’t fall under RTE and are exempted under Article 15 (5) that empowers the government to form any policy for the upliftment of socially backward class, thus forming the basis of affirmative action in private unaided schools in India. Hence, NCPCR carried out an assessment across all minority schools to understand the impact of this exemption on children and their education.
The report states, “The aim of the study was to find out ways to create a pathway to ensure that children in minority schools are able to study in an inclusive environment conducive to their development by receiving both modern & foundational education, as guaranteed by their fundamental rights, along with religious & cultural education.”
According to the report, across all communities in minority schools, 62.5 percent of the student population belong to the non-minority community, while only 37.5 percent belong to the minority community. Muslim community schools (20.29 percent) have the lowest percentages of non-minority population among their minority schools. The Christian community schools, on the other hand, have 74.01 percent of the student population belonging to the non-Christian communities.
The report further reveals that the Sikh community contributes 9.78 percent to the total religious minority population and contributes a share of 1.54 percent to the religious minority schools. The Buddhist community schools have 75.12 percent of the student population belonging to non-Buddhist communities and the Parsi schools have 76.92 percent of the students belonging to non-Parsi communities.
Unfortunately, the study shows that there are approximately 1.1 crore Muslim children who are out of school, and the number of madrasas identified is approximately 6,000 only. Mere 4 percent of Muslim children attend Madrasas. Across all communities, 8.76 percent of the total student population belong to the disadvantaged sections. The report reads, “Since minority schools are outside the purview of the RTE Act, there is no compulsion to admit students from disadvantaged backgrounds”.
Tamil Nadu. Odisha, Dadra and Nagar Haveli have no percentage of disadvantaged minority students receiving benefits. Andhra Pradesh has the highest percentage (19.37 percent), followed by Bihar at 12.27 percent of disadvantaged students who have received benefits like minority scholarships, fee waivers, free ships on books and/or uniforms. In total, only 4 percent of students from disadvantaged and marginalised sections all across the country receive such backing and benefits.
The NCPCR report also highlights the importance of mapping all unrecognised institutions (Madrasas, Vedic Pathshalas, Gumpas), to identify out-of-school children as there are a large number of children who remain unidentified. The report states, “There are a large number of children attending Schools/ Institutions that are not recognised. Children also attend such institutions that are unrecognized as these are unmapped and the number of such institutions is not known. Therefore, whether these institutions provide quality education and the information on the environment these institutions provide to children also remains unknown. Children attending all such institutions (unrecognised and/or unmapped schools) are to be treated as Out of School, even if they provide regular education.”
The report reveals that there are three kinds of madrasas in the country – recognised madrasas which are registered and impart both religious as well as secular education; unrecognised madrasas which have been found deficient for registration by state governments as secular education is not imparted or other factors like lack of infrastructure; and unmapped madrasas which have never applied for registration.
As mentioned above, 4 percent (15.3 lakh) of Muslim children attend madrasas, but this only takes into account the registered madrasas. The report adds that the syllabi of madrasas, that have evolved over centuries, are not uniform, and that “being left ignorant of the world around them, many students develop an inferiority complex, being alienated from the rest of society and unable to adjust with the environment”. It also mentions that madrasas do not have any teachers training programmes.
The survey also talks about disproportionate numbers after drawing a comparison of the population of a religious community in a state to the number of minority status schools of that particular community, which indicates that the “minority status schools are not in proportion to the religious minority population in a particular State.” For instance, the report explains that in West Bengal, 92.47 percent of the minority population is that of Muslims and 2.47 percent are Christians, but there are 114 Christian minority schools in the state and only 2 schools with Muslim minority status.
Suggestions to the government
The Child Rights Body has recommended the government to extend the provisions of RTE to minority educational institutions or make a law with similar effect to ensure RTE of children studying in these minority educational institutions. They have also suggested a greater role of the Minority Cell in NCERT/ SCERTS in giving the fundamental right to elementary education to all children, especially children of minority communities.
In the report, they have also appealed for introspection by management of schools with minority status and religious institutions on their role and contribution. Most importantly, they have suggested the government to undertake mapping of all unrecognised institutions to identify out of school children.
The report also suggests that minority schools are catering to less than 8 percent of the minority children population, despite a large presence of minority students in school-going age groups. Hence, “there is a need to lay down specific guidelines regarding the minimum percentage of students from the minority community to be admitted to the institution”, says the report.
The entire report may be read here:
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