Friday, July 30, 2010

PROMOTING RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Ranald Lopes sdb

CHHOTA UDEPUR, July 28, 2010: While enacting the Right to Education law may have been relatively easy for the Indian Government, ensuring that every Indian Child, and especially children in remote villages, can actually benefit from this law is going to be a mammoth task. It is an interesting coincidence that as the RTE comes into force, the ‘Governance Project’ being implemented by several Don Bosco centres in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh enters into Year 2, and the thrust for this year is enabling people to secure the proper implementation of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in their villages.

Against this backdrop, Lok Seva Kendra, Chhota Udepur organized a training workshop on Wednesday, 28th July, which was attended by 94 Village and SHG leaders from 20 villages. The programme began with Fr. Ranald Lopes explaining the role that LSK planned to play to secure the proper implementation of the RTE and SSA in the Chhota Udepur villages. Mr. Prakash Ahire then introduced the resource persons for the occasion, Ms. Gangaben Rathwa (Taluka Kelwani Nirikhsak) and Mr. Makarani (SSA Resource Centre Coordinator).

Ms. Gangaben Rathwa enlightened the participants on various issues such as the importance of the birth certificate, the government’s educational system, administrative procedures, schemes available for women and children, etc. She also stressed the role and responsibility of the parents in ensuring the education of their children.

Mr. Makarani then made a detailed presentation on the RTE and SSA. He further pointed out that while these may be excellent laws and schemes, their proper implementation will not happen unless they are monitored by the local people. Hence, the SSA had put in place a body called the Village Education Committee (VEC) that is responsible for education at the village level. The RTE Act has now made it compulsory that every school should have a School Management Committee (SMC) that is responsible for the monitoring and development of the local school. Seventy five percent members of the SMC should be parents or guardians of the children, while the other twenty five percent is to be made up of teachers and local authority members. This body is expected to play a critical role in furthering education in the villages.

Finally, a film on the SSA was screened, after which Fr. James Tuscano proposed the vote of thanks.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

ANNUAL MEETING OF DIRECTORS

Ashley Miranda
MUMBAI, JULY 2, 2010: The Annual General Body Meeting of the Directors of the various Don Bosco centres in Western India was held on 30th June and 1st July 2010. While the first day of the meeting was dedicated to a variety of business issues, the second day was dedicated to inputs and reflection on the ‘Rights Based Approach to Development’. The resource person for these sessions was Dr. Yogesh Kumar, Director of the NGO Samarthan from Bhopal. The session began with a short video clip in Hindi presenting a very meaningful reflection in song on the right to work, the sad reality of unemployment and the dignity that work brings.

At the very start of his presentation Dr. Yogesh pointed out that poverty whatever its form or shade, whether in rural or urban areas has the same pain. The temptation that we need to resist though is to reach out to those who are marginalized or underprivileged in various ways with Band-aid Solutions focusing on welfare. To bring about real change we need to focus on ‘direct democracy’ and ‘citizenship’. It is only by building capacities and by helping people look at themselves as citizens who can demand their rights and entitlements can we bring about change that will benefit all and will last. Speaking about the Gram Sabhas, Dr. Yogesh said that we need to get people interested in its functioning because it represents the collective strength of the people. In order to do so, however, we need to strengthen the functioning of various interests groups that go to make up the Gram Sabha. Foremost among these groups are the women’s’ groups, the SHGs, PTAs, youth groups etc.

Dr. Yogesh then went on to speak of the importance of ‘community monitoring’ in all development projects. A culture of transparency and accountability fostered through the setting up of vigilance committees and through well conducted social audits contributes a great deal to building up the collective strength of the people. He cautioned those present that the goal of audits and committees should never be to victimize anybody. Those who are part of the administrative machinery may have their shortcomings but it is no point antagonizing them. Besides not all are corrupt; there are many who are actually sincerely interested in the good of the people. We therefore need to create the right environment where the officials can perform their duties and the people can access their rights.