Article 21-A of the Constitution of India and its consequent legislation, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 became operative in the country in 2010. The RTE Act confers the right to elementary education on all children, in the age group of 6-14 years, on the basis of equality of opportunity in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. All states and UTs have notified their state RTE Rules. The centrally sponsored scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) supports states and UTs in their efforts to implement the RTE Act. Its interventions include, inter alia, opening of new schools, construction of schools and additional classrooms, constructing toilets and drinking water facilities, provisioning for teachers, in- service training for teachers and academic resource support, free textbooks and uniforms, support for improving learning achievement levels, research, evaluation and monitoring.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) Programme is being implemented since 2001 for universalization of elementary education. It has made significant progress in achieving near universal access and equity.
Progress in achieving the goal of universal access under SSA has been consistent over the years. Over the years 2,04,740 primary schools have been sanctioned along with 1,59,415 upper primary schools in a radius of 3 km.
Special Training for mainstreaming out-of-school children
The RTE Act makes a specific provision for Special Training for age-appropriate admission for out-of-school children. A majority of out-of-school children belong to disadvantaged communities – scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, Muslims, migrants, children with special needs, urban deprived children, working children, children in other difficult circumstances, for example, those living in difficult terrain, children from displaced families, and areas affected by civil strife, etc. Special training may be in the form of residential or non-residential courses organized, preferably in the premises of the school, but if such facilities are not available in school, alternate facilities which are safe, secure and accessible may be identified and used.
SSA has a provision for residential facilities in sparsely populated or hilly and densely forested areas with difficult geographical terrains and in densely populated urban areas. SSA has provided 826 residential institutions with a capacity of around 90,855 children.