The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) seeks to ensure quality education to all children in India.

MARG’s project ‘Legal Empowerment of Local Stakeholders in Odisha to Increase Access to the Right to Education’ focuses on the development of legal empowerment skills and tools. Supported by Oxfam India, this project has worked at 3 levels: (i) community empowerment, particularly through development of a cadre of community justice workers i.e. community members trained on legal empowerment strategies (ii) institutional linkages (iii) development of legal literacy materials.

The belief behind this design for intervention is that the effective implementation of any law cannot be left entirely to state authorities. It is, so to speak, the ‘duty’ of citizens to enforce their rights by demanding justice. And this can only be done if people know their rights, and have the capabilities to enforce them. The availability of legal literacy materials is crucial in spreading awareness on rights. Linkages with state authorities strengthen the process of enforcing rights.

(i) Community Empowerment:  In this project MARG has targeted one of the most backward geographical areas (Kaptipada Block in Mayurbhanj District, Odisha) to build the community towards access to the right to education. MARG worked closely with its local partner in Odisha, Shikshasandhan, to develop a cadre of Community Justice Workers.  MARG selected a group of 15 RTE Justice Workers and 25 School Management Committee Members (SMC).  An important part of the training activity was to enhance the confidence of the RTE justice workers as well as the SMC members in dealing with government officials and improve their understanding of the administrative system. The training comprised of interface meetings with government officers and other relevant experts. MARG held  6 community level trainings  reaching out to 300 people in the community to increase knowledge of community members on RTE as a right. An RTE Mela held on March 17 in Mayurbhanj to create mass awareness on the right to education was attended by around 350 children and community members.

(ii) Institutional Linkages:  A District level meeting was organised by MARG in Mayurbhanj I March 2012 with various Education Department officials including the District Project Coordinator, Block Resource Center Coordinators, Cluster Resource Center Coordinators, and Teachers.
This was a first time meeting of its kind which was organised in Kaptipada block of Mayurbhanj. The Interface set a platform for community members and the officials from the education department to discuss issues at hand in a transparent and effective manner. The Interface Meeting between SMC Members and the Education officials brought about 200 participants to discuss and share issues at the Panchayat level.
A State Level Workshop on Implementation of the Right to Education Act was organised in collaboration with the Odisha State Legal Services Authority (OSLSA) in Cuttack on March 24, 2012. The State Level Workshop on RTE engaged 120 participants who included LSA panel lawyers, NGO’s, National RTE Forum representatives, State Representative in Odisha for NCPCR, Consortium of Odisha Alliance on CRC, Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL), UNICEF, UNDP, CARE India, RTE Forum Odisha and  a lot of media representatives.

(iii) Development Of Legal Literacy Materials: MARG developed several legal literacy materials in ‘Ho’ language, which is the language of its project area in Kaptipada, Mayurbhanj. These materials included posters and pamphlets on the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, and other issues of the right to education.  MARG also developed a Manual on the Right to Education which can be used by activists and other stakeholders to understand the various issues and challenges in education in India, the various provisions of the Right to Education Act and the various strategies for redress and effective implementation.

Agent of change (Zarina Bibi)- MARG’s RTE justice worker