Horizons of social justice: child education


This paper involves the position of primary education to children. Even after almost 69 years of independence, when the country has developed a far better system, still there are innumerable children to whom this right is inaccessible. Receiving education has also been declared the Fundamental right as children of today are the future of tomorrow so they become a priority to focus at. It is disheartening to see that poor people are more open and in favour of girl education than those of the elite class. If we want a safe future and a safe tomorrow for India, we need to bring the children out from the world of where they are treated as labours to a place where they can get quality education. The cycle of illiteracy, poverty and child labour can be broken by sending children to school. It would not be wrong to say that child labour is one of the many causes of lack of education. This paper brings out the shortcomings of implementation of education laws in society. It further seeks to reason how child labour and differentiation between girl and boy adversely impact the society at large. This paper will provide valuable information about the right of children to free and compulsory education Act. India should work to make education available and to raise living standards so as to eliminate child labour and furthermore lead to the development of the country. The paper concludes itself with the challenges which are faced in providing elementary education to children and the solutions which can help in achieving the desired result. Research Methodology adopted for this paper is doctrinal in nature as I have consulted various books and articles.

Keywords: education, social justice, fundamental right, child labour

 Education is the civil rights issue of our generation and if you care about promoting opportunity and reducing inequality. The classroom is the place to start. Great teaching is about so much more than education and it is a daily fight for social justice.

Research questions:

  • What does social justice mean and what are its perspectives?
  • What is the approach of other countries in dealing with education of children?
  • Right of children to get free and compulsory education
  • What are the challenges and how can it be solved?


Social justice is recognising and acting upon the power that we have for making positive change. This is done by teachers in everyday life in a number of ways, for instance, the teacher can include classroom practices that will make this dynamic explicit. Students should be given opportunities so that they are able to see how positive change happens and how can they be leaders in creating change. Further, social justice orientations are also reflective of best practices in teaching. Teachers have liberty to include both maintenance of high quality content instruction and create a classroom with social justice orientation. Social justice orientation is appropriate for all classrooms and enables the students to learn through their lives.

There is a need for high-quality teachers and leaders in Indian classrooms and schools, especially those classrooms and schools populated by the most underserved groups. We all should act as an advocate for rigorous academic standards for all students that lead them down a pathway toward college or a fulfilling career. Our collective failure to provide a quality education fundamentally undermines the human dignity of our students. Not preparing them for a possible college career by assigning them to underperforming teachers or principals in failing schools restricts the path that they may wish to choose in life. It is not an issue of partisan politics, nor an issue of top-down legislation; rather, it is an issue involving the reaffirmation of the civil rights of Indian students, a reaffirmation of their dignity as human beings. Our children have a dream. Should we continue to provide our children with a broken system, we will continue to strip away any future they may dream about. We will continue to downgrade Indian economy, and continue to withhold the basic rights owed to our children.

More than 12.6 million children live in India and are forced to work in order to survive. In an age which focuses on the growing need of children to study, there is yet another society where these children work as domestic help in factories, farmlands, and on streets silently suffering abuse and torture. This society is not alien to us but people whom we see daily like children of our domestic help are some of them who are encountering this problem. Here, it is important that we make those vulnerable people understand about the children’s right to education. Exploitative child labour practices should be exposed, residential bridge schools and vocational training programmes should be ensured for children who are above the age of 14 and special health campaigns should be arranged for the children who live on the streets.


Out of the one billion population of India[1], over 400 million constitute children. If we want to achieve a good desirable result what we first need to improve is the initial steps i.e. we need to think about the children which will be the future of the country. Is it the lack of adequate political/social will and low importance in the scheme of governance? Or is it the problem with numbers or with the policies or with the institutions themselves? Before independence one could have blamed on poverty and illiteracy but today the country is registering 8 to 10 % growth and is claiming to become a world economic power by 2020.[2] Now the question is can it sustain this goal with 30% of its children illiterate, under-nourished, forced into unproductive pursuits, and neglected. Asha Bajpai has spent a long part of her professional life in pursuing the juvenile justice administration and the development of the child rights. Education is an essential right as it permits to acquire basic knowledge and blossom in the society. The right to education is vital for the economic, social and cultural development of all societies. Education must be accessible to all children. It is a human right which ought to be accessible to everyone without any discrimination. Additionally educational instruction must be of an excellent quality. It is a fundamental and a universal right. The right to education also supposes that the objectives of learning will b e attained. The professors must be trained in teaching which combines pedagogy and play for the purpose of arousing children’s interest. The countries must focus their efforts on primary instruction so as to make schools free for all children.[3]


Even after so many years when the countries have developed to far better system, still, education remains in accessible right for millions of children around the world.  More than 72 million children of primary education age are not in school and 759 million adults are illiterate and do not have the awareness necessary to improve both their living conditions and those of children.[4] Inequalities that originate in health, sex and cultural identity and marginalisation are the major reasons for children who still do not have access to education. Factors linked to poverty such as illness, unemployment and the illiteracy of parents result in the drop-out rate of a child by two.[5] Universal primary education is a major issue and a sizeable problem for many states. Funds pledged by the international community are generally not sufficient enough for the countries to establish their own education system.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected area with over 32 million children of primary school who are uneducated. Other areas are Central and Eastern Asia as well as Pacific are also affected. In countries like Somalia and Burkina Faso more than 50% of children receive education for a period less than 2 years. When children are devoid of education, it leaves a bad impact on the population of the country.


In 2005 the Right to Education Bill was drafted by the Central Advisory Board of Education and was sent to Ministry of Human Resource Development for revision. The MHRD in turn sent it to the Prime Minister. The union government, ministers and the public spent three years in scrutinising the bill. It was finally passed in 2009 thus becoming the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The act aims at providing quality education to all the children between ages of 6-14 as per the fundamental right and the 86th constitutional amendment.[6] After a long struggle, right to education was made a fundamental right through the constitutional amendment in the year 2001. A draft bill has been prepared by the government of India on the right to education. State laws are still left to be drafted. The right to education bill seeks to give effect to the 86th constitutional amendment.[7] The draft bill mainly said that “every child who has attained the age of 6 years shall have the right to pursue full time elementary education and be admitted to a neighbourhood school.”[8] Also, it is the duty of the state to ensure a school in every child’s neighbourhood, within a period of three years and if there is no such school, it shall be the duty of the state to provide free transportation to the nearest school. A certificate will be awarded to every child who completes his elementary education.

This act refrain the schools from charging capitation fee, screening the children for admission or denying admission on the basis of lack of proof of age. No school can expel the student before completion of elementary education. The act also prohibits physical punishment or mental harassment. All schools should be registered and should obtain a certificate of recognition from the appropriate government. Charges up to one lakh can be levied against the schools that function without a certificate. Moreover, the central government has power to change these norms and standards.

The act calls for establishment of a School Management Committee which consists of parents, teachers and local authorities and is responsible for monitoring the school by making developmental plans. National and state commissions are responsible for addressing the grievances and upholding the education in the manner prescribed in the act.

 Now the question is that has the constitutional amendment making the right to education a fundamental right made any difference to the child in the matter of access to education in the ground level? Now the question arises that whether the new child offences act ensures adequate provisions for the protection of the children against abusive and exploitative behaviour of the parents, relatives and strangers? These questions are to be answered by civil organisations and the government working in the field of child rights and child welfare.

There are a lot of issues relating to the children which still remain unaddressed like administration and implementation of juvenile justice, right to development, right to protection against sexual abuse and exploitation, right to parental care: custody and guardianship, right to survival: health, shelter and nutrition, and education. Though written at last but still education is above all and is the most important aspect in every child’s life.


Right to education is expected to become a reality soon. It is indeed ambitious for a country that has witnessed decades of policy failure to make operational the rhetoric of free and compulsory education for all the children under the age of 14.[9] Education has been neither free nor compulsory. For the state to guarantee education provision through a legislative enactment is a major shift, given a history of provision which has consistently failed disadvantaged groups, privileging the interests of minority urban elite. About 110 million children remain out of the schooling system, and about 60% of those who enrol in school drop out by grade 8 (Wadhwa 2001). As studies have consistently shown overtime, those excluded continue to reflect inequalities within the wider social, economic and political fabric, particularly those of caste, class, and gender. Axes of inclusion are broadly predicted around the following occupational and social classifications – children of the upper castes or from smaller families, or from households that are economically better off or dependent on non-agricultural occupations, with parents who are better educated, or from villages that have better access to schools (Vaidyanathan and Nair 2001) thus underlining the roles played by social position, economic opportunity and the power exercised by local community leadership in securing state provided resources in education. The India’s poor performance in securing equitable educational opportunity for all is mainly the gap between discourse and operational framework in education. This gap appears in danger of persisting, even with the shift to guaranteeing the right to education.

Some of the reasons for lack of education are:

  • Inequality between girls and boys

The urban girl child is at a disadvantage while their rural counterpart has some ray of hope as nearly 19.70% rural mothers favour girl child education than 7.22% in cities.[10] Also, a startling fact comes to encounter in this survey that 86%of the rural fathers felt the need of education for knowledge whereas only 72.22% of urban fathers felt that better education will help in getting a good life partner. The urban parent seems to be more orthodox. Their mindset does not allow freedom to their girl child. The National Plan of Action for the girl child has been devised to eradicate female, gender discrimination, etc.[11]

Girls make up more than 54% of the non-schooled population in the world and still have least access to education in countries like Arab States, in Central Asia, and in Southern and Western Asia. Male population is given privileged treatment while the girls are destined to work at home. In Sub-Saharan African, over 12 million girls and in Yemen, more than 80% of the girls never get an opportunity to receive education and it is even more alarming to see that no effort is taken to reduce the gender gap with regard to education.

  • Children treated as labour

If we want a safe future and a safe tomorrow for India, we need to bring the children out from the world of where they are treated as labours to a place where they can get quality education. In the case of M.C. Mehta v State of Tamil Nadu[12], the court having regard to the Directive Principles of State Policy in article 39(e), 39(f), 41, 45 and 47 of the constitution not only directed a survey of child labour and its prohibition but also directed payment of Rs. 25,000 by the employer to the Child Labour Rehabilitation/welfare fund or alternative employment to parent of the child to ameliorate poverty and lack of money as it is the main cause of child labour. The provisions of juvenile justice Act, 1986 the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, which replaced the 1986 Act recently came up for consideration before the Constitutional Bench.[13] The object of the act was to provide for the care, protection, development and rehabilitation of neglected juveniles. The acts were passed to follow the Beijing rules. As they are remedial in nature, they are to be given liberal construction.[14] Minimum requisites of healthy growth and development should be given to the children as it is an important factor in shaping the future of the nation. Although there are a number of significant interventions of the judiciary and civil society and international organisations, yet it is not happening today despite of some key initiatives of the government.

In an age when they should study, children are enslaved worldwide, forced into manual labour, are trafficked in brothels or become victims of debt bondages.


It is high time when the countries should realise to cut their defence budget and invest upon the education if child labour is to be eradicated. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi added that, “The world has been able to produce more guns and weapons and bullets, than the books and toys which are needed for children”[15]. Child labour needs intervention and changing attitudes in society and addressing the survival needs of the families.[16] It is the families whose will matters the most if it comes to education. If we look at the backward class, they do not regard education as a good practise. They present very lame excuses when asked why they don’t want their children to study, they say, what is the need. The parents have made their children a source of earning. Improving the quality of education and access to education will not only significantly reduce child labour but will also address the needs of children who are reintegrating into the school system or are still working. The cycle of illiteracy, poverty and child labour can be broken by sending children to school. Moreover, education is not enough unless it is coupled with other interventions and strategies like raising awareness, reduction of poverty, legal reform, promotion of employment for adults, regulation and enforcement, income generation and safety nets for families prone to resort to child labour.

India should work to make education available and to raise living standards so as to eliminate child labour and furthermore lead to the development of the country. A joint action is needed at all levels because this issue is too complex to be dealt with by any single government ministry if we wish to swiftly eradicate child labour i.e. local, national, regional and international. However it is important for all the parties to understand the causes and consequences of child labour and also that how they are interconnected. Also the most important above all is education which is the first level towards eradication of child labour.

In order to progress in this field huge funding is required. The main aim should be what is needed in terms of statistical data and making suggestions on how to acquire better statistical data on the effects of improved access to education and higher quality education (better data will improve monitoring and evaluation of progress towards eliminating child labour), action to develop capacity of the NGOs and other government agencies, to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge and tools that are required to deal with the child labour issues in relation to the education and vice- versa.[17]

All we need is global political will. There is an urgent need of global funding and financing child education for their health and betterment.

Author: Ayushi Gupta, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow

Disclaimer: This article has been published in “International Journal of Socio-Legal Analysis and Rural Development (ISSN: 2455 4049), page no. 23. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without prior permission from Legal Desire. All Rights Reserved.

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