Karnataka has a 280-page action plan for academic year 2024-25 but activists are unhappy: Here’s why

The Department of School Education has rolled out an action plan for the primary and high schools for the ongoing academic year 2024-25.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jul 02, 2024 | 9:00 AM Updated Jul 02, 2024 | 9:00 AM

Government of Karnataka Department of Education School Action Plan Activist Child Labour Child Marriage POCSO

The state government’s action plan for the academic year 2024-25 has come under scrutiny from child rights activists and educationists for its insufficient attention to critical issues such as child rights, child labour, child marriage, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The Department of School Education has rolled out an action plan for the primary and high schools for the ongoing academic year 2024-25.

It includes a detailed timetable and lesson plan to ensure uniform teaching and learning activities across the state, underscoring the importance of a structured, goal-oriented educational strategy.

However, the 280-page action plan has barely addressed issues concerning children, such as child marriage, child labour, child rights and cyber awareness. Activists opined that an effective plan is necessary to curb offences covered by the POCSO Act.

Activists and educationists have welcomed the government’s decision to create annual action plans but stressed the need for detailed and effective implementation to develop life skills among children.

They argue that the current plan fails to adequately address the need for child protection policies, increased physical activities, and comprehensive education on juvenile laws.

Educationist Dr VP Niranjanaradhya emphasised the importance of a coordinated, multi-departmental approach and continuous education to protect children’s rights effectively.

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Action plan for educational development 

The action plan for the ongoing 2024-25 academic year, aims at holistic physical, psychological and intellectual growth of students at both primary and secondary levels.

A committee consisting of various officials, including three IAS-rank officials and academic experts, has articulated the action plan. With a detailed timetable and lesson plan,  it also encourages mentors to adapt and innovate, ensuring a forward-thinking approach to education.

By outlining daily activities, weekly specials, and monthly programs, the action plan strives to deliver quality education and foster comprehensive development of students, also focussing on integrating academic, administrative, and school development efforts.

Child Rights Trust Director and activist Nagasimha G Rao told South First, “The action plan plays a key role not just in organising academic activities for primary and high schools but also in shaping the future of students as well. A committee set up by the government will submit a report and based on it, the action plan will be formulated.”

“The responsibility for its implementation will be on the education department. The teachers have been entrusted with executing most of the responsibilities mentioned in the action plan,” added Rao.

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Addressing gaps in child rights, education planning

Welcoming the state government’s move, the activists however, expressed concern over several serious issues pertaining to children not finding space in the action plan.

In the action plan, the education department’s lack of emphasis on juvenile laws and their rights has irked activists.

Except for POCSO, concerning issues such as child marriage, child labour, child rights, and online and cybercrime awareness have barely been mentioned in the entire action plan, which has dismayed activists.

The activists also claimed that it barely stresses on developing physical fitness, activities and sports culture among the students.

Activist Nagasimha G Rao told South First, “This routine work needs to be effective in terms of outlining a detailed action plan and then implementing it. The action plan barely addresses child labour and child marriages, which are serious social issues. Efforts to educate on child rights and establish clubs have remained only on paper.”

“There has to be a child protection policy and child rights club in every school. This will enrich children’s knowledge and develop leadership qualities, which will come in handy during Child Rights Grama Sabhas,” he said.

Stressing the need for physical activities in schools, Rao pointed out: “In the action plan, the government has not placed enough emphasis on increasing physical or sports activities among the students. They have not even allocated at least an hour for children to play each day.”

“It is necessary to give equal importance to sports and physical activities instead of stressing more over academics or syllabus-oriented activities. Developing a sports culture in students is crucial,” he said, adding that it would have a positive impact on children’s physical growth.

Stressing on the need of student-oriented activities in the action plan, Rao pointed out, “According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, which clearly defines the rights of children under 18 years, children have been empowered with Right to Life, Right to Protection, Right to Development and Right to Participation.”

“The government has emphasised on all three rights except for the right to participation. The government’s action plan barely addresses strengthening students’ participation. There are few activities for children in this action plan, ” he said.

“The action plan needs to focus on developing leadership qualities, life skills, decision making skills, gender equality, communication skills, religious tolerance, empathy and sympathy among children. The action plan should be about exposing education rather than imposing it,” opined Nagasimha.

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Activists’ concern on POCSO implementation

In the wake of increasing POCSO cases in Karnataka, the activists strongly scrutinized the education department’s action plan on the issue and stressed for the need of in-depth awareness about this juvenile law.

In the action plan, the government issued an order dated 19 November 2022, directing the education department to comprehensively implement the POCSO Act, 2012 in all schools for the 2024-25 academic year.

In the four-page directive on POCSO, the department was directed to set up child protection committees, child right clubs and rolled out a customised child care policy.

However, the activists claimed that it has become an annual affair for the department to reissue old-orders/notifications instead of developing a more comprehensive action plan on serious issues like POCSO.

Pointing at other concerning issues within the juvenile community, Nagasimha said, “POCSO, child labour and child marriage have remained challenging for the government to address at the grassroots level. Serious issues like child labour and child marriage have been limited to one-day awareness activities in schools.”

“There is no detailed plan about educating children about these laws. POCSO has been mentioned in the action plan and there is emphasis on educating children. But there are no facilities for students to access councillors and complaint boxes are barely seen in schools,” he said.

“It is only during parents’ meetings that councillors are invited. Apart from this, the children barely get access to resources. POCSO cases are on the rise in the state. The government needs to take serious measures such as providing access to counsellors and implementing effective awareness policies,” the activist lamented over the government negligence towards these issues.

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Rise in POCSO cases, child rights advocacy

According to the Karnataka State Police, “The state saw a significant rise in POCSO cases over the years with 839 cases reported in the first four months of 2022, which increased to 890 cases during the same period in 2023, marking a rise of 6.08 percent.”

“The number surged further to 1,128 cases in the first four months of 2024, marking a steep increase of 26.74 percent compared to 2023. For the entire year of 2022 and 2023, Karnataka recorded 2,582 and 3,274 cases respectively, an increase of 26.81 percent,” reported the police.

On POCSO and other child rights, CWC former chairperson Anjali Ramanna said, “These are very relevant topics to educate children about POCSO, child marriage and child labour as well. The children should have awareness about POCSO and other juvenile related laws.”

“It is important to ensure that child rights related activities such as clubs are effectively functioning in schools. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure a healthy environment for the students,” urged Anjali Ramanna.

Stressing for the preventive measures, Educationist Niranjanaradhya told South First: “Child to Child campaign is a powerful campaign. If the children are educated about juvenile laws including child marriage rights, POCSO and others, they themselves will become more aware and help prevent such issues.them.”

“Therefore, the authorities must take preventive measures. It is always a proactive step. Awareness should to be created among children through various activities instead of limiting it to one-day event,” opined the educationist.

On POCSO, he said: “A detailed road map is necessary to mitigate sexual assaults on children. The Child Rights Commission must take lead and coordinate with concerned departments for effective implementation.”

“There is a need for thorough, robust monitoring of the action plan,” Niranjanaradhya said, stressing the need for a detailed road-map to address child rights issues through the academic action-plan.

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‘Coordination must for effective action plan’

While scrutinizing the action plan, the activists stressed the need for strong coordination between departments to implement certain measures and evaluate the plan’s implementation in schools and colleges.

Anjali Ramanna told South First, “There is a need for quarterly assessment in schools. Education institutions have sprung up like mushrooms. There are several schools where buildings are sandwiched between two other buildings.”

“The government must set up a monitoring body to assess the implementation of the action plan. It has to mandatorily make zonal inspections effective in schools. The zonal inspectors have to take stock of all the activities from assessment to performance of schools as per the action plan,” she said.

“The government needs to emphasise the implementation of  relevant mechanisms to spread awareness among children about their rights,” said Anjali.

She added that these activities in private schools also need to be assessed when they turn up for license renewal. “If any institution is found to be at fault, such school must be reprimanded and questioned seriously,” she said.

Niranjanaradhya told South First, “There is a need to address the issues by consistently educating children instead of just creating awareness on anti-child labour day on 12 June.”

“There is also a need for coordination among multiple departments such as labour, education and women and child welfare, in effectively implementing these measures,” Niranjanaradhya stressed.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)

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