Mr. Priyank Kanoongo is a member of RTE (Right to Education) division of NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights). He joined NCPCR in November, 2015 and will be leaving the office this month.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has been constituted by the Government of India, as a statutory body under section 3 of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 for dealing with the protection of child rights and related matters. On the eve of International Literacy Day, initiative of UNESCO, INBA student section members- Bhawna Gandhi, Sagarika Mishra and Neha Bargotra sat down in conversation with Mr. Priyank Kanoongo.
Q.1.What does your department exactly deal with at the commission?
Ans. RTE & Education department works for awareness generation and giving recommendation & formulating strategies for the existing gaps in the Indian legislation, policies and schemes. The RTE department has prepared various guidelines in order to strengthen Indian legislation related to education. The commission is working towards to provide residential facilities in school. The department has formulated hostel regulatory guidelines for the first time (the hostel guidelines have been adopted by the ministry of minority). Other than that there are guidelines for regulations of private play schools. The department plays a very important role in recommending regulatory guidelines to the state and central government.
Q.2. Are there any new guidelines that the department has recommended?
Ans. The department has prepared guidelines on estranged parents; the department is also preparing a manual consisting of 22 guidelines on safety and security of children in school. The guidelines were from various different departments so we have in consultation with these departments compiled all these guidelines and prepared a single manual for these guidelines, the statutory manual makes it easier for the school to enforce these guidelines more effectively. The commission has prepared a model ‘fee regulatory guidelines’ which would determine the fees, depending upon the facilities and safety provided by the schools. The framework has been formulated after an in-depth study of all the existing regulations and policies by determining the gaps between them and finding out the best ways to bridge this gap. The fee regulatory framework also talks about participation of parents in the determination of fees.
Q.3. There was a latest direction given by the Supreme Court to formulate guidelines, what was it about?
Ans. On 15th April 2018 the Supreme Court directed HMRD (Ministry of Human Resource and Development) to prepare accountability guidelines for management of school to ensure safety and security of children. So the HMRD contacted NCPCR and re- prepared a comprehensive guideline for the same which is under the process of notification stage. And it may be notified by October this year. The guidelines talks about penal punishments for schools in the form of fines when they don’t implement the manual for the safety and security and other relevant guidelines. The guidelines talk about formation, duties and functions of parents’ teacher association under the ambit of section 21 of RTE Act. Also the guidelines specifically talk about children admitted under EWS Scheme (economically weaker section).
Q.4. What all activities has the department conducted?
Ans. The department has been involved in over 100 activities in the last 2 ½ years and has had over 8 lakh participants in these activities. The commission conducted nationwide survey on safe and secure school environment remedy, called Annual Status Report of Safe and Secure School Environment Remedy. The survey was conducted through child inspectorates, survey tools were given to the children and at least two students from teacher training institute were involved in the survey. Around 1 lakh college students and 4 lakh children participated in the activity. We have received data of the survey from 15-16 states and the work of compiling this data is under process. The report will be released by October. For the first time, the government has not spent a single penny in collecting the data of large sample size, purely volunteer work. Southern states didn’t show a lot of enthusiasm in participation. On the other hand northern states participated enthusiastically. Data from various states is still pending and yet to be received.
Q.5. There have been various reports of violent crimes against children in educational institutions and is this new drive towards children safety due to that?
Ans- Yes various cases have been recorded and it is for the first time that section 75 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 have been used against school management. We have had some recent cases of gross negligence on the part of school management like the murder of a 7 year old boy in Ryan International School, Gurgaon. We told the police to register a case of negligence against the school management as we found the school did not undertake the police verification of teachers and non teaching staff.
Another interesting thing we summoned the chairperson of Union Bank of India and notified State Bank of India complaint in Maharashtra of deducting amount from children’s account for non maintenance of minimum balance. The concerned students were studying in government schools and getting Rs.400 direct benefit transfer as entitlement under free education for free uniforms. The banks deducted that amount so NCPCR issued a notice and now banks have appointed nodal officers in every state that are in contact with state education officer and state project directors for Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan. In consonance they are preparing a data of students who got such benefits and starting the procedure of reimbursing the amount deducted. Above 10 crore students are getting entitlement under RTE Act.
Q.6. What are your views on World Literacy Day?
Ans- At this stage awareness is not the real concern right now; we are focusing more on filling the legislative gaps. For e.g., In 2012 Right to Education Act was amended by Rajasthan High Court and minority institutions were exempted from its obligations. In 2015 a five Judge bench of Supreme Court confirmed the Right of Minority under article 15(5) of the Indian constitution and due to confirmation of 93rd amendment the minority institution got exception from article 21A of the constitution. There is still a large section of students who can’t avail the benefits provided by RTE because of this exception.
Q.7. Do you think CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is contributing enough towards education and child welfare?
Ans- There are various initiatives taken by companies towards child welfare like donation, setting up orphanages and schools, providing scholarships, meals, books etc. But as very minimal CSR activities is seen in the northeastern states ,the commission conducted, for the first time, a regional convention of northern eastern state was held in collaboration with government of Assam for strengthening child welfare and child education in north eastern states. The general perception towards children issues is driven by welfare or charity approach rather than the approach of children’s rights. Safety and security is not a charity that we provide to children but it’s their right. We recommended to the ministry of corporate affairs that 10% of CSR budget to be invested in north eastern states. Approving this recommendation the ministry of corporate affairs appointed a steering committee to decide upon this matter.
Q.8. What do you think are the remedies for child labour?
Ans- Child labour will not be eradicated until and unless all the sectors are organised and child rights are stringently protected. Children under the age of 14 are protected under the RTE act but children above 14 years of age can be employed in non hazardous industries. Children are employed in various unorganised sectors and industries that lead to their exploitation. To prevent this exploitation they need skill development and training they need skill development and vocational training but there arena policies for the same .The commission has taken initiatives to device methods to impart quality education and vocational training to children of observation homes and special homes.
Student Reporter- INBA