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Saturday, September 18, 2021

3 out of 4 children in Christian schools are non-Christians: NCPCR’s report on minority schools

The ill effects of the Right To Education Act, and how it cripples Hindu run institutions, has been widely discussed in social media. Yet, the awareness about the act itself is very limited among the public. In such a situation the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has released a report analysing the impact of RTE not covering minority schools.

The RTE Act brought to effect in 2009 prescribes specific regulations that schools should follow like minimum physical infrastructure, staff and facilities, educational benefits such as the requirement for students to be taught in age appropriate classes, for students who are out-of-school to be placed in a special training centre before enrolment in schools, barring schools from charging excess fee or using screening procedure in admission process, etc.

While the act was designed to regulate all the schools in the beginning, later minority schools were exempted from it after the court ruled in their favour in its Pramati judgement. The pretext given was that it would violate the right of minorities to conserve their language, script and culture as defined in Article 29, and to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice as defined in Article 30.

Following this, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2012, in which a provision was included that the rules in RTE act were subjected to Articles 29 and 30 when it comes to minority institutions, was brought to effect. The argument that minority schools shouldn’t come under the purview of RTE, even if they are government aided ones, was further strengthened by the verdict pronounced in the Pramati case.

This resulted in the formation of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) to safeguard the educational rights of the minorities as enshrined in Article 30(1) of the constitution. The rationale given for the exemption to minority educational institutions was to provide equal opportunity to the minorities to conserve their language, script and culture. 

Whenever RTE is discussed, the 93rd amendment which makes Article 15 provide immunity to minority institutions is also discussed in parallel. The amendment enabled the government to make special provisions for the admission of socially and educationally backward communities in private educational institutions. But minority institutions were exempted from it in reference to the inclause (1) of Article 30. The committee thought the three important parts of the constitution pertaining to minorities- Article 21A which guarantees fundamental right of education to all children, Article 30 which allows minorities to set up their own institutions with their own rules and Article 15(5) which exempts minority schools from RTE – creates “a conflicting picture between fundamental right of children and the right of minority communities”.

All these exemptions were given with the sole objective of helping minorities preserve their religion, culture and language. So NCPCR,to assess how the rights of children were trampled to appease minorities, conducted a case study of the impact of these three provisions in 23,487 minority schools across the country among children of the age group of 5 to 15. The NCPCR had started holding consultations with the students, teachers and communities in 2015-16 itself and 16 meetings in which 80 participants, state commission members among them, offered their suggestions including studying the impact of these provisions. The committee has made damning revelations through this study which were long suspected but are now proven with data. 

The committee’s report found that while Muslim run institutions, mainly madarsas, taught religious education and lacked formal education, there are other kind of schools where formal education is provided as per section 29 of the RTE Act, but religious education is not provided as per section 1(5) of RTE Act despite obtaining religious minority certificate. These schools, mainly Christian ones, are immunized through 93rd Amendment Act, 2005 as well. The committee felt that such practices “adulterate the spiritual and cultural aim of minority institutions and dilute the fundamental objective of Article 30 of the constitution”.

The committee observed that Christian Missionary schools admit only a certain class of students and leave underprivileged children out of the system. The report describes such missionary schools as “cocoons populated by elites’’. On the other hand, madrasas have become “ghettos of underprivileged students languishing in backwardness’’ the committee noted in its report.

Issuance of Minority Certificate 

  • The report found that there was a sudden surge in the number of schools applying for minority certificates after the 93rd amendment was brought in. More than 85% schools of the total schools secured the certificate in the years 2005-2009 and later. The number jumped from 653 in 2004 to a whopping 4550 in 2014.
  • Passage of the 93rd amendment and the RTE act largely benefited Christian and Muslim communities which can be inferred from the data collated by NCPCRNCPCR
  • The committee interprets that schools wanted to operate outside the legal mandate to reserve seats for backward classes which is why there was a surge in need for minority certificates.
  • Among the states where the certificate issuing authority that provides minority certificates is inconclusive, Tamil Nadu tops the list with 99.03%. NCEMI and its authorised bodies issue certificates to only a teensy number of 0.07% of schools. (The report categorises it as inconclusive as the state has unclear, aberrant or no certificate issuing authority). Odisha comes next with 97%
  • Among the states where minority population is 30-50%, Jharkhand tops the list with 88% schools issued certificates by an inconclusive authority. Meghalaya tops the list of states having more than 50% minorities with 100% of the certificates issued by an inconclusive authority. All these states have a highly active missionary population.
  • 65% of the Christian schools were issued minority certificates by inconclusive authorities

RTE Exemption Denies Social Justice

  • As minority institutions are exempted from RTE which mandates basic rules to be followed, 96% of children didn’t receive basic minimum infrastructure, number of teachers, books, uniform, Mid-day Meal, etc which are available for other children
  • Only 8.76% of total students in minority schools belong to socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

NCPCR

  • In Tamil Nadu, a mere 0.1% of students from disadvantaged portions of minority communities benefit from minority schools. Jharkhand in 30-50% category and Manipur in more than 50% category also serve the least number of disadvantaged students from minority communities in their respective categories.
  • Christian schools that enroll 74% of non minority children cater to only 4% of disadvantaged children from their own community. Also, only 2% of children in Christian schools receive government benefits

Disproportionate Distribution of Minority Status

  • The Muslim community constitutes about 69% of the religious minorities. However it runs 22.75% of schools only. But Christian community that constitutes about 11.5% runs a huge number of 72% schools. 
  • 62.50% of students in minority schools belong to non-minority communities
  • 74% of students studying in Christian missionary schools are non-minority students

minority schools

  • Only 8% of 4,81,91,351 children studying in minority schools are from minority communities
  • Except UP, Maharashtra, Bihar and Rajasthan Christian schools are more in number in every state. In Punjab where Sikhs account for 94.27% of the minority population Sikhs run only 9 schools. But the 2.05% Christians run 70 schools and 86.5% of the children enrolled in Christian schools are non-minority.

Important Suggestions

  • State governments need to introduce strict guidelines on the minimum percentage of minority students to be admitted in minority schools mandatorily and award minority status after determining the proportion of schools run by a particular minority community in relation to the size of the population living in the state
  • Extending the provisions of RTE to minority educational institutions or make a new law with similar effect to ensure the benefits of RTE reach children studying in minority schools
  • The committee discovered that some children who fall under the ambit of section 2(14) of the JJ Act, 2015 are residing in residential facilities/hostels of minority schools and institutions imparting religious education without following the procedures of JJ Act. The committee has suggested that the state governments should initiate enquiry into the same, ensure that such children are immediately produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and are either restored or rehabilitated as per the orders of the CWC
  • Linking the need of number of minority institutions in a state for a particular minority community to the process of issuing minority certificate for better utilization of resources
  • Laying down specific guidelines regarding the minimum percentage of students from the minority community to be admitted to the institution.
  •  Re-examining and amending the  current guidelines for issuing minority certificate “to ensure the robust and reliable summarization of minority character and welfare of minorities
  • expanded to include linguistic minorities as per each state as well.
  • A substantive review of Minority Status Renewal at periodic intervals

The study lays bare the undue advantages given to specific communities in the name of protecting minority rights. It exposes the so-called social service of Christian institutions in imparting education even to their own community. It also gives valuable data on how minority communities act in states where their organisations are concentrated. Unlike the selective advocacy of RTE activists, the study shows how the RTE Act which was brought to give children equal chance to get access to education ended up depriving them of the same by granting special rights to minorities.

(Featured Image Source: India Legal)


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