Disabled kid? sorry, no admission!
Mita Sarkar, a mother of a six-year-old girl who has cerebral palsy (CP) had to approach around ten private schools for her daughter's admission. She heard the same response from every school she approached: “Education is for all and we accept all children, but we are not equipped to school your child”.
The article by Akhila Damodaran was published in the New Indian Express on November 28, 2016. Nirmita Narasimhan was quoted.
Mita says, “When Monali was seven months old, she had a traumatic brain injury. She lost more than half of her brain cells. Now her condition is similar to kids with cerebral palsy.” She has right side hemiparesis – a weakness in the right side of the body. She has difficulties with motor coordination, walking, speech and attention span.
“But according to her doctors, psychologist and therapists, her intelligence level is good and she can continue a regular school curriculum with some facilitation and acceptance from the schools, teachers and peers,” says the mother. With her tireless pursuit to seek admission for her daughter, Mita finally struck gold with a private school. Monali is currently in LKG.
Though the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act 1995 and Right to Education states that children with disabilities have equal rights to education and can be admitted in a normal schools, many schools seem to make an excuse that they do not have enough manpower and resources for admitting children with special needs. The PWD Act recognises CP as a disability.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, a programme started by the government for universalisation of elementary education also states that equity, to mean not only equal opportunity, but also creation of conditions in which the disadvantaged sections of the society - children of SC, ST, Muslim minority, landless agricultural workers and children with special needs, etc. - can avail of the opportunity. Access, not to be confined to ensuring that a school becomes accessible to all children within specified distance but implies an understanding of the educational needs and predicament of the traditionally excluded categories - the SC, ST and others sections of the most disadvantaged groups, the Muslim minority, girls in general, and children with special needs.
Nirmita Narasimhan, Policy Director of the Disability Access vertical of Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), says, “Inclusive education is a good model, provided there are good staffs and resources available. The staff should get equal pay as that of other teachers. It is a good method to sensitise normal children about the disability issue as well.”
Rights not being Implemented
G N Nagaraj, President, The Karnataka State Disabled and Caregivers Federation says there are no proper facilities available for special children. “There are no sufficient special educators for such children. The attendance is poor. How many disabled children are passing SSLC? If the government is spending so much, what is finally happening? We filed an RTI three years ago to find the number of disabled students who passed SSLC and we learned that it is only around thousand from all over Karnataka who have passed SSLC,” asks Nagaraj.
Separate Wing for Disabled Children
But the advocate C V Sudhindra believes the Act that allows inclusive education may not be a practical proposition. He explains, “Children with disability will find it difficult to adjust in a classroom with abled children. It could be demoralising for them. They would mingle with abled children and understand what skills they are deprived of. It is a burden on the institution to have facilities for special children. The needs for every disability vary. You need have not just a trained teacher but also other facilities like toilets. It affects the normal functioning of a school.”
He adds a separate school is ideal for them. He cites an example, “You cannot accommodate people with disabilities in the Olympic competition. That is why we have Paralympic competition. The Act should be in tune with reality and should not affect the regular affairs of the people.”
Ruby Singh, an activist who is the founder of ALFAA, agrees with the advocate. She says the Bill can encourage parents to get their children educated and get employed. “When the government can allocate land and subsidy to schools, it can also allocate funds for a special wing with good resources and where more courses and opportunities are created for special children. The services should switch from charity mode to rights mode,” she says.