Their din finally seemed to have reached Parliament. Last week, the Lok Sabha passed the 93rd Amendment Bill to make education for children in the six- to 14-year age group a fundamental right. Baiju’s demand was met but for his children in Giridih the writing on the blackboard might remain just as grey: "They hate their rundown school, their disinterested teacher and they hate his thrashings most."
Even as we celebrate urban India’s best schools and welcome brave experimental endeavours in schooling, about 110 million of our children continue to languish outside classrooms. Of the rest who enrol into Class 1, according to the latest government statistics, some 60 per cent drop out of school by Class 8. Making education a fundamental right in these circumstances, cynics say, means little. But the more optimistic hail the legislation, albeit with serious qualifications, as a crucial first step in India’s education history.