The landmark passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 marks a historic moment for the children of India. For the first time in India’s history, children will be guaranteed their right to quality elementary education by the state with the help of families and communities. Few countries in the world have such a national provision to ensure child-centered, child-friendly education to help all children develop to their fullest potential. An estimated eight million children (6 to 14 years) in India were out-of-school in 2009.
“India is home to a growing urban population that can be mobilized into demanding that the goals set forth in RTE become reality. We must continue the momentum to achieve this objective and the middle class, as well as the media, can help raise their voices to keep RTE firmly in the national spotlight,” said UNICEF India Representative Karin Hulshof. “We hope to have 500,000 people sign-up for the campaign by 24 January, Girl Child Day.”
The campaign is being launched by UNICEF, with the support of the Government of India, at www.awaazdo.in. “Awaaz Do” means “Speak Up” in Hindi and is symbolized by a megaphone logo. Using technology and social networking allows citizens to get actively involved and demand the rights for children who are excluded and marginalized.
Those who sign up serve as champions for the cause and help build awareness through social media forums including email, Facebook, SMS and a photography contest. UNICEF celebrity ambassador, Priyanka Chopra, and Kapil Sibal, Minister of Human Resource Development, have signed up as an Awaaz Do champions to garner support.
Several corporate and media houses have partnered with UNICEF to endorse the cause. Tata Teleservices, Barista Lavazza, Park Hotels, Tupperware are urging their customers to speak up. Disney network and Chandamama are asking their viewers and readers - primarily children - to spread awareness on the campaign. Many leading corporates, like CPA Global, are encouraging their employees to sign up. Radio City 91.1 and Planet RadioCity.com are connecting with each one of their listeners across its 20 stations to take the online pledge and be part of the change. Photography and short-film contests are also being organized with prizes sponsored by Canon.
Millions of children, both girls and boys, will benefit from the RTE Act ensuring quality education with equity. The initiative is a ripe platform to reach the unreached, with specific provisions for disadvantaged groups, such as child labourers, migrant children, children with special needs, or those who have a “disadvantage owing to social, cultural, economical, geographical, linguistic, gender or such other factor.”
RTE focuses on the quality of teaching and learning, which requires accelerated efforts and substantial reforms. Creative and sustained initiatives are crucial to train more than one million new and untrained teachers within the next three to five years and to reinforce the skills of in-service teachers to ensure child-friendly education.
“UNICEF is working with the Government of India to outline a roadmap for implementing RTE at the national and state level. However, the success of this act is also largely dependent on collective action,” said Urmila Sarkar, UNICEF’s Chief of Education. “The Awaaz Do campaign is a platform for the combined voices of the government, the corporate world, the media and individuals to become an undeniable force to ensure every child is in school.”
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
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