Use RTI to inspect schools in your city
This is a discussion on Use RTI to inspect schools in your city within the RTI News & Discussion forums, part of the RTI News, Circulars and Decisions category; Use RTI to inspect schools in your city - Moneylife Personal Finance site and magazine Use RTI to inspect schools in your city VINITA DESHMUKH | July 11, 2012 12:51 ...
- 07-21-2012, 04:46 PM #1
Use RTI to inspect schools in your city
Use RTI to inspect schools in your city - Moneylife Personal Finance site and magazine
Use RTI to inspect schools in your city
VINITA DESHMUKH | July 11, 2012 12:51 PM |
JOSH, along with National Commission for Protection of Child’s Rights, invoked the RTI Act to inspect documents as well as infrastructural facilities in government and government-aided schools in Delhi
We keep reading about government schools lacking infrastructure, staff facilities, poorly implemented mid-day meal schemes and poor execution of distribution of school books and uniforms. Now, you can exercise your right to inspect any government or government-aided school to ensure if school children are receiving facilities as per the Right to Education (RTE) Act.
Delhi leads in this unique social audit of schools, thanks to dynamic youngsters of JOSH (Joint Operation for Social Help) who along with the National Commission for Protection of Child’s Rights (NCPCR), campaigned for public inspection of government and government-aided schools.
JOSH joined NCPCR to conduct social auditing in June 2011. This meant visiting schools for physical inspection of infrastructure and records in the school office. Representatives of the two organisations were shocked to note that they were not being allowed to enter the school premises. Some of them said that “only parents are allowed and not NGOs”. So, JOSH members requested some parents to conduct inspection but they too were denied entry.
Saurabh Sharma, member of JOSH then decided to invoke RTI (Right to Information) Act for which he sought advice from RTI experts. He was told that inspection of school records and facilities comes under the suo moto disclosure under Section 4 of the RTI Act. Hence, he need not file a RTI application but should straightway send an official complaint to the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) seeking suo moto disclosure. This in turn would facilitate citizens to conduct inspection or NGOs to conduct social audits.
Accordingly, Mr Sharma and his colleague Aheli Chowdhury sent an official complaint to CIC Shailesh Gandhi on 8 June 2011 requesting him that citizens be allowed inspection in schools of the following documents that come under suo moto disclosure of Section 4 of the RTI Act:
Students’ attendance records
Teachers’ attendance records
Budget allocations, sanction issued and expenditure incurred
Expenditure on educational tours, mid-day meals, VKS/SMC, sanitation, and CEP
records of disbursements made to students on account of scholarships, uniforms, books, and all other incentives given under any scheme
Copies of circulars/notifications/orders received from the Directorate of Education & other departments/authorities from time to time
Various registers like inspection register, visitor register, movement register
They also stated in their complaint, that, “as the education department and the Government of Delhi runs and maintain a large number of schools in the city, they should have all the mandated information mentioned in Section 4, in hard copy at the school premise for the benefit of the beneficiary community. This will be of immense help for them in ensuring transparency and accountability of the functioning of schools.”
On 29 July 2011, CIC Shailesh Gandhi ordered the schools that all the documents asked for by the JOSH members should be immediately be opened for public scrutiny. In order that the school is not time and again disturbed for such public scrutiny which may throw its routine work out of gear, it ordered that: “All schools of the department will have the above noted documents/registers available for inspection by citizens on last working day of each month, from 8am to 10am and 2pm to 4pm for the first and second shift schools, respectively. This information, regarding inspection timings shall be available on the notice boards of all schools.”
The order also said that: “The Director (Education), GNCTD, shall send a consolidated report of compliance of the above directions to this Commission by 15 September 2011. The report may be sent to email@example.com, with a copy to the complainant.”
However, since the CIC order mentioned only school records, the additional director of education (schools) gave an order on 28 October 2011, stating that, “no inspection of the infrastructural facilities has been ordered by any authority and any NGOs or any other person is not to be allowed to carry out any inspection or interactions without the prior authorization of the department.” States Mr Sharma, “this obviously meant that you cannot check any school records since you would not be allowed to enter the school premises. This order was passed after one round of inspection of 60 schools by 15 NGOs who helped in this effort along with JOSH and NCPCR, and CIC Shailesh Gandhi’s decision. The report was highlighted in the media, embarrassing the government authorities. It was found that all of them without exception did not adhere to the physical infrastructural and staff facilities dictated by the RTE Act. Ironically, schools in HRD minister Kapil Sibal’s constituency were also poorly equipped.
So, Mr Sharma knocked the doors of CIC Annapurna Dixit against the order of the additional director of education (schools) which came under her jurisdiction. He sought the inclusion of the words “inspection of infrastructural facilities” to be brought under the ambit of school inspection. On 11 March 2012, Ms Dixit gave the following order: “I therefore am reasonably certain that right to inspect the work being undertaken/completed by schools (i.e. infrastructural facilities provided by schools including water and sanitation facilities, boundary wall, classrooms and teaching facilities within the classrooms and mid-day meals, (the inspection of which is required to verify that the facilities do exist) and that they adhere to the prescribed such inspection should be allowed to common citizens.
“Be that as it may, it is felt that such physical verification of infrastructural facilities is definitely required to be undertaken in the larger interest of school-going children.
“I therefore direct the Directorate of Education to quash the earlier circular and to issue a fresh circular clearly giving lists of both records and the physical facilities which can be inspected by any citizen under RTI as also the dates/timings when such inspections can be carried out. The information seeker shall, however, not be free to question the school authorities about inconsistency/infirmities/inadequacies, if any, found in the inspected records or work, at the time of inspection. For this, the information seeker may approach the public authority for information while following the due course of law.”
These trend-setting CIC decisions have a direct impact to government and government-aided schools in every corner of India, which have to be accountable and transparent. It also gives fillip to organisations like the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to ensure that schools function as per the stringent RTE norms.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org