Union Budget 2021: 70,000 sign petition to increase education budget

Union Budget 2021: The petition was filed by a 16 year-old from Uttar Pradesh and has been supported by the RTE Forum.

Union Budget 2021: 70,000 sign petition to increase education budget representational image (source: Shutterstock)
Atul Krishna | Jan 15, 2021 - 12:26 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: A petition to increase the Union budget for education, filed by a 16-year-old girl from Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, has garnered over 70,000 signatures on the online campaign platform, Change.org.

The petition, addressed to the education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, asks the Union Budget allocation for education to be increased to six percent of the GDP, as proposed in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

The centre had allocated 3.1% of the total gross domestic product (GDP) for education in 2019-20, according to the ministry of education. The budget allocation for the financial year 2021-22 will be announced on February 1.

The petition demands an increased budget to increase the number of secondary schools in the country. It also demands the extension of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 to cover secondary education as well. At present, the RTE Act covers only elementary education, Classes 1 to 8, for children aged six to 14. The Right to Education (RTE) Forum, an alliance of academics and activists working on education, has supported the petition.

Union Budget 2021, NEP 2020

Bandana, the petitioner, points out that the limits of the RTE Act, 2009, which only covers till Class 8, is further increasing the girl drop out ratio. “Once we turn 14 and complete Class 8, our access to education ends,” Bandana said in the petition.

“When I was 14 years old, I had a hard choice to make: keep going to school or help provide for my family by working during school hours. To meet family obligations, I had no choice but to drop out of school,” she added.

Bandan explained in the petition: “The only way to make sure all girls have access to education is by ensuring the extension of the RTE Act up to higher secondary level and also ensuring that more money is spent by the government to build secondary schools in every village.”

“In my village, there is no government school or free education beyond Class 8, so most girls end up as child laborers or child brides and face a life of endless exploitation,” she added.

The petition also points to the inhibitions of parents to send their girl children to school if the school is located outside the village. The RTE Act mandates a school every one kilometer for primary level(Classes 1 to 5) students and every 3 kilometers for upper-primary level (Classes 6 to 8) students.

“Poor families like mine can’t afford private schools — and it’s even worse for girls. Most families believe it is too dangerous to send their daughters to a school outside the village when there is no safe transportation. Many girls have been molested and harassed by boys while walking and cycling to a school far from my home,” she added.

Since 2017, after the introduction of Niti Aayog’s SATH-E initiative, thousands of schools were closed or merged in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Jharakhand, thereby reducing the proximity of schools even at the primary level.

The NEP 2020 has also advocated “rationalisation” or merging schools.

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