Strengthening School Bodies

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PACS has been working with School Management Committees, Village Education Committees and Bal Panchayats (Children's Parliaments) to strengthen their functioning so that they become better at monitoring and addressing issues of educational discrimination in their local schools. PACS has also been working to increase the participation of socially excluded groups in these forums to ensure that the voices and experiences of children from these communities are represented and heard.

A range of school bodies

In 2009, the Right to Education (RTE) Act was passed. Section 21 of the Act requires all schools to constitute a School Management Committee (SMC). The role of a SMC is to manage, monitor and support a school in its functioning, and to ensure that it is meeting requirements as outlined under the Act.

Before the RTE Act was passed, Village Education Committees (VECs) performed a similar function (created under the government's Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan - Education for All - campaign). Many VECs have now become SMCs, although some VECs still remain active in PACS districts.

In addition to SMCs and VECs, PACS has also been working to establish Bal Panchayats (Children's Parliaments) in schools to ensure that children have a say in their education. Whilst education is a primary issue for Bal Panchayats, many of the groups also discuss and address other issues that affect them and their communities.

 The Bal Panchayat at the Government Middle School in Goindri village, Chhattisgarh, was set up by PACS and partner SYM. Together they have successfully advocated to make positive changes, both in their school and within the village.

Strengthening and supporting school bodies

SMCs, VECs and Bal Panchayats are only able to fulfil their roles if they understand the RTE Act – What is the role of SMCs under the RTE Act? How should schools function? How should education in schools be organised? Where do funds for education come from? Who is responsible for what? Who should be approached if there is a problem?

To help build the knowledge and capacity of these bodies PACS has produced pictorial information materials, which provide information about the RTE Act and other government legislation (such as the Mid-Day Meals programme) so that members are aware of what children and schools are entitled to underneath them.

In total PACS has helped to form and strengthen 5469 SMCs, ensuring that they are aware of their roles and responsibilities. In addition, PACS has also formed 694 children's groups. Partners have specifically working with these groups on two key issues: increasing school enrolment (especially of children from socially excluded groups) and improving school quality.

 With knowledge about the RTE Act, this SMC in the Kandhamal district of Odisha asked a local journalist to document the malfunctioning school. As a result, the District Collector ordered a teacher to be appointed along with funds for classrooms, toilets and a kitchen.

Promoting inclusive SMCs and schools

PACS has also been working to increase the participation of socially excluded groups in SMCs and other school bodies. As per the RTE Act, socially excluded groups are supposed to be represented proportionally on SMCs. However, it is common for the decision-making positions (such as the President, Vice President and Secretary) to be held by people from higher castes and for decisions to be made without consulting other group members.

It is vitally important to ensure that socially excluded members are fairly represented and heard on SMCs, VECs and in Bal Panchayats so that they can speak up on behalf of children who are discriminated against, and to raise issues of discrimination that otherwise may not be heard.

Thanks to the work of PACS, 15,057 members from PACS Community Based Organisations have been elected as SMC members. 68% of these people are women and 64% are from Scheduled Caste or Muslim communities.

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