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‘Right To Safe Education’: Orissa High Court Quashes Govt Order For Merger Of Primary Schools Citing Importance Of Neighbourhood Schools At Walking Distance

first_imgNews Updates’Right To Safe Education’: Orissa High Court Quashes Govt Order For Merger Of Primary Schools Citing Importance Of Neighbourhood Schools At Walking Distance Akshita Saxena6 May 2021 9:54 AMShare This – xIn a significant judgment concerning elementary education among the poor, the Orissa High Court held that it is essential to ensure that primary schools are situated within walking distance of their neighbourhood. A Single Bench of Dr. Justice BR Sarangi observed that the “Right to education includes right to safe education”, and when the very purport of the Right to Education Act, 2009 is to provide at least one school within a walking distance of one kilometre of the neighbourhood, in that case, the State Government cannot take steps for abolition of schools that are already catering to the needs of the local people, merely on the ground of decreasing roll strength. Holding thus, the Court quashed a notification dated March 11, 2020 and a subsequent office memorandum for merger and consolidation of primary schools having poor roll strength with higher schools. The Court, while hearing a batch of petitions against the Government order, observed that the GO gives complete go by to the Constitutional mandate under Article-21-A (Right to Education) of the Constitution and statutory provisions contained under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) and the Odisha Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2010. The order stated, “Right to education includes right to safe education. Education is the brining up; the process of developing and training the powers and capabilities of human beings. In its broadest sense the word comprehends not merely the instruction received at school, or college but the whole course of training moral, intellectual and physical; is not limited to the ordinary instruction of the child in the pursuits of literature. It also comprehends a proper attention to the moral and religious sentiments of the child. And it is sometimes used as synonymous with “learning”.” Children in elementary schools should be our first concern. The rise in the literacy rates in various States over the years is primarily due to better inputs in (formal) primary education. When then base is weak, everything remains weak in later years. In half-hearted primary education, all efforts to reform secondary or higher education will prove to be futile exercise… Unfortunately the authorities of the system do not seem to realize this natural phenomenon, because, they themselves have no stakes in this system. Instead of finding the reasons for decreasing roll strength merger of school will not serve the purpose. It is just like without finding the cause of disease treatment has been started. There are enumerable reasons for decreasing of roll strength, instead of eradicating the ground difficulties merger is taken place due to decision is taken place at higher level without realizing the ground level reality.” The Court turned to various statutory provisions that obligate the State to establish primary schools near poor, rural areas, to ensure that children residing in these areas have access to education. Section 3 of the RTE Act provides that every child shall have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till the completion of his or her elementary education. Section 6 thereof provides that it is the duty of appropriate government and local authority to establish, within such area or limits of neighbourhood, as may be prescribed, a school where it is not so established. Section 8(b) of the Act provides that the appropriate government shall ensure availability of a neighbourhood school as specified in Section 6. Similarly, Rule 6 of the State Rules provides for establishment of neighbourhood school in respect of children in classes I-V within a walking distance of one km. of the neighbourhood. So far as children having classes VI-VIII, the provision provides that a school shall be established within a walking distance of 3 kms. of the neighbourhood. Further, the Court noted that there is no provision, either in the Act or in the Rules, for merger/consolidation of primary/upper primary schools with high schools. Furthermore, it held, when no minimum roll strength has been prescribed for a primary school under the Act or the Rules, the impugned notification fixing the minimum roll strength is contrary to the statute and, as such, the same cannot sustain in the eye of law. “Students in neglected rural far-flung region need special dispensation, additional dose of teaching and other activities. If Government accommodation for teaching is provided and a rational transfer policy is formulated and strictly adhered to, many problems of teachers posted in difficult rural regions will be resolved to a great extent,” the Court observed. Case Title: Lilly Samal & Ors. v. State of Odisha & Ors. Click Here To Download Order Read OrderTagsOrissa High Court Right To Education RTE Act Right to Safe Education Article 21-A Constitution of India Next Storylast_img read more