Arti, a 12-year-old attended a new class at her government-run school in south Delhi on Saturday. Unlike students who study in private schools in the city, she did not carry with her a bag full of new books. She had hoped, instead, to get them at school. Except that she didn’t. A large number of children in government and municipal corporation-run schools in Delhi will have to wait yet again to get textbooks this year, even though the new session started on April 1.
Government-run schools in Delhi are supposed to provide books to all students in all classes each year. Even last year, books were not given to students on time, with the parents of one child filing a petition in the Delhi High Court in August last year to get the textbooks. Parents of several children like Arti who cannot afford to buy textbooks are assured by the government that their child will not suffer because of it.
But in the absence of books, students do suffer as most of them don’t even have access to internet to use it as a resource. Students in private schools, in comparison, start reading from and referring to textbooks from day 1. “Education is the biggest head in Delhi government’s budget. It is good that it is spending money on swimming pools and infrastructure but basic things such as books are not reaching children on time. In some cases, the Pragati books that were given to students was of such poor quality that nothing was visible on the pages and a few pages, including one carrying the map of the country, were upside down. If the government is spending Rs 100 crore on printing books, where is it going?” said Saurabh Sharma, a Right to Education campaigner with Campaign for Change.
According to Delhi government officials, schools in north and northeast zones have been given books. “Schools in our two biggest zones, north and northeast, have got books, and by April 15, all other schools will get them. We agree there has been a delay but we are trying to minimise it as much as possible,” said a government spokesperson. Officials at municipal corporations also agree there have been delays but assure that students will get books by Thursday. Activists point out that the delay in giving books has been a chronic problem in government-run schools.
“Despite assurances to the court, the problem persists. Teachers and government will blame poor education quality on the attitude of students and the no-detention policy but won’t introspect and see that the basic rights of children are being violated. Why is the preparation for books not done in advance?” said Khagesh Jha, a lawyer and RTE activist.