A bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday to widen the beneficiary net for disabled children in Right to Education and provide those with severe disability the option of receiving education at home.
Moving the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2010, for consideration, Human Resources and Development Minister Kapil Sibal said it provides the right to receive home-based education to children with severe disabilities and dismissed criticism of the provision.
Sibal said, "It is a historic piece of legislation and will have a huge impact on quality education to children between classes 1 and 8 in the 6-14 age group."
"The bill will change the way we look at education. You can have a legislation but it needs to be implemented," he said and called for involving key stake-holders, including children, parents, NGOs and schools and not just the government alone.
Winding up the debate on the bill, Sibal said he shared the concerns of the members against use of the word "disability" but said they wanted to ensure that the definition was tight and that there was no room for interpretation.
He said parents would have the option of providing home-based education to children with severe disabilities and said the clause should not be used as an instrument by institutions to deny admission.
Sibal hoped that concerns of members would be automatically addressed in the RTE Act once the Social Justice Ministry amends laws to include some more categories under the definition of disability.
Referring to one of the provisions of the RTE Act under which all schools except unaided minority ones will provide free education to children from deprived sections, Sibal said the government will adequately contribute to these schools.
He said the government's contribution would be to the tune of Rs 6,000 to Rs 19,000 per student per annum.
"There are 80 to 90 per cent of the private schools whose annual tuition fees are less than Rs 19,000 and less than the contribution made by the Centre," he said.
The act provides 25 per cent reservation for students of disadvantaged sections in classes.
Sibal said as far implementation of the Act is concerned, states were equally responsible for its proper implementation.
The act also provides for establishing School Management Committees to prepare school development plan.
Initiating the debate on the Bill, Kaptan Singh Solanki (BJP) criticised the government for not giving proper attention to the Act when it was brought into effect.
"Now after 65 years of Independence, this Act has been amended. We support it, we welcome it...it should have been in our fundamental rights," he said.
Balchandra Mungekar (Cong) said it is the primary responsibility of state governments to implement the RTE Act.
P Rajeeve (CPI-M) asked the government to frame a proper definition of disabilities.
D Bandyopadhyay (Trinamool Congress) demanded that even children suffering from malnutrition should be included in the definition of disabilities.
T Siva (DMK) sought change in the term disability and inclusion of dyslexia under the category of disability.
Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena) demanded special attention to child labourers and their right to education.
Mohammad Adeeb (Ind) felt the right of minority institutions will be snatched under the RTE Act, while Bharatkumar Raut (SS) raised concerns about the special children.
Naresh Agrawal (SP), Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U), V P Singh Badnera (BJP) and Derek O'Brien (Trinamool) also spoke.