Cover pregnancy to six years in RTE ambit: NGO

Mumbai, April 15 (IANS) Early Childhood Association (ECA), an organisation that works towards early childhood care Tuesday called for the Right to Education (RTE) Act to bring in its ambit the huge chunk of children under the age of six years.

The RTE Act governs children in the age group six to 14 years.

“Today, India has 159 million children under the age of six years, who either are in or can soon join pre-school. However, this massive segment is completely unregulated, allowing several substandard play schools and pre-schools to flourish,” ECA president Swati Popat Vats said, quoting a recent survey.

Vats said there is a need to include the period right from pregnancy till the age of six years of a child in the ambit of the RTE.

“This will essentially mean the mother is taught how to take care of the yet to be born child. It may go on till the child is three years of age by when the child starts going to school,” she said.

“Early childhood years (at least till the age of six), is the time of maximum growth. It is a crucial personality development continuum and hence if we ignore pregnancy, a major chunk of the brain and parental style has already set in,” she explained further.

At present, in addition to the RTE, there is also the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan that handles education of children from Class one (when he/she is six-year-old).

However, the ECA feels that children in the age group of six to eight years also require special nurturing and care and cannot be clubbed with older children. “We do not see any major contradictions in the RTE and the policy except the age factor,” Vats said.

The organisation also called for the need for a regulatory body that will deter schools from flouting basic norms.

“It has become mandatory to have a regulatory body in the country. It will serve as a deterrent to 50 percent of the schools that openly flout basic norms like space availability, general hygiene and lack formally trained teachers,” said ECA executive director Reeta Sonawat.

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