Thursday, September 10, 2009


A tribute to those dedicated to children with special needs...

Being a teacher myself, 5th of September holds a special place. Not just because I myself find fulfilment in this vocation but more than that for every teacher who had contributed towards my being. But then it is also a fact that not many in this country are as fortunate as me, as forget transformational teachers, for a majority of population even basic education is still a distant dream.

Particularly in the rural India, thousands of children do not even have access to school, and even if few fortunate ones have access to schools, they do not have the access to basic infrastructure. And on the top of that, be it rural or urban schools, good teachers have become almost a national casualty!! And as a result of all this the entire concept of schooling or formal education becomes so futile in vast parts of economically challenged rural India and within the urban slum dwellers that most parents force their children to opt out of schools and join hands to add to their family income.

It is not that the initiatives have not been coming from the government at the Centre. But the commensurate outcomes of the policies and various budgetary allocations have not been up to the mark – that too only with respect to urban and semi-urban areas. With respect to rural areas there has been a blatant neglect. And the neglect has not just created a deep geographical divide but also a physiological and psychological one. What I mean here is that there has literally been no effort to create conducive infrastructure for children with special needs, irrespective of whether they belong to urban or rural India. According to some reports India is a home to almost 40 to 80 million people with special needs. Of which almost 30 per cent are children from the age group of 0 to 14! And what is most unfortunate is the glaring fact that 90 per cent of these children do not have access to any form of education.

Though there are some individuals and NGOs who are active in terms to creating learning opportunities for these children but then most of these initiatives are restricted to few cities only. It is not just that these children lack equal opportunities but on top of that face multiple challenges within the family and society at large. And just in case if the child hails from rural India, the situation gets even worse. It is reported that there are almost 30 out of 1000 children in the rural India who are mentally challenged, and for them the plight takes larger proportion on account of illiteracy coupled with socio-economic challenges.

Though in a country where education is still struggling with respect to reach and politics of reservation based on caste and religion, it is silly to expect equal opportunities to children with special needs. But then by not giving them the opportunity we are committing probably the biggest crime as these children can neither fight for their own cause nor can garner adequate support who can fight for their cause.

In an environment wherein none, including the government seem to be bothered with respect to these children, it is indeed an astounding effort for those individual teachers who have voluntarily dedicated their lives in supporting and educating these kids, who otherwise stand discriminated!! A special tribute to them on this teacher’s day!!



  1. Do we really understand the problems of the disabled? The shameful yet the most correct answer is no. In our country, where vote-bank politics is rampant, almost all minority groups have managed a variety of sops for themselves. The disabled, however, have remained a hidden minority deprived of the basic needs, which even the most disadvantaged take for granted. Our leaders are painfully ignorant that the disabled barely enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, may be they assume that this 5 percent of the 1 billion does not exist et-all. Why should they exist, they do not vote the pot bellied politicians to power; right?

    To illustrate, let us consider just three fundamentals rights: right to education, right to employment and right to full social living. Do the disabled have free access to schools and universities? No answers needed. Now tell me, How many principals of "leading" schools will be willing to admit a 10-year-old on a wheel chair? Nine out of ten would probably suggest that such a child should take tuition at home. Thus, when the foundation itself is weakened, the chances of future employment are minimized anyway. That’s, simple logic. Let us be honest. When you think of employment for the disabled, what are the jobs that come to your mind? Do you visualize a disabled person behind a CEO’s desk in multinational company, as a radio jockey at a leading station or even as a professor at a prestigious university? Most unlikely. You will probably think of a peon, a sitting job mechanic or a petty shop owner. The reality is close to this!!!!!

    The bias against the disabled is strongly embedded in our social psyche, making it all the more difficult for the person to equip himself to live normally; especially so in India, where a person’s physical handicap is often equated with the sins he or his forefathers may have committed. A disabled person is usually haunted by references to his previous birth at home, among relatives, at places of work and even at the “temples of learning”. Where education and employment remain a distant dream, to think of normal social living appears comical. People ‘may’ grant a disabled person some serious attention when he talks of schooling or employment but talk of his dating, marriage, going to a disco or for a walk(wheel) down the aisle; and it has most in giggles. They are the “unnecessary things” that can be banished from the lives of the special.

  2. Comment continued
    Broadly speaking, there exist two schools of thought in respect of settings in which education may be imparted to children with disabilities. Those favoring a special school system argue that it is only in special settings that children with disabilities can get quality education, adequate attention and all the required facilities; and that too in an appropriate atmosphere with a level playing field and without feeling excluded in the crowd of non-disabled children. Such settings ensure that the children with disabilities are able to keep pace with the class unlike in the so-called integrated/inclusive settings.

    Contrary to the above view, the exponents of integrated/inclusive settings attack the special school system vehemently on the ground that such a system tends to ghetto-ise children with disabilities. Strongly favoring the idea of working towards creating an inclusive, barrier-free, and rights-based society, they assert that a vast majority of children with disabilities can be accommodated within the regular school settings, and hence, in an inclusive environment, with some adaptations. In any event, a child with a disability is essentially and primarily a child first and a child with a disability only next. Besides, they argue that the cost of setting up special schools is highly prohibitive.
    In the first place, it is critical to recognise that promoting inclusion in all spheres of life is non-negotiable. Therefore, inclusion in education, in order to be effective and meaningful, must happen at all levels of the entire education process-viz., at the curriculum development level, at the teaching learning level, at the infrastructure development level, and at the school management level, at the examination and evaluation etc. Piecemeal inclusion is no inclusion. It has got to be all-pervasive.

    Although inclusion is primarily a goal, to my humble way of thinking, it is also a process. All the progressive international instruments including the UN Convention on The Rights of Persons with Disabilities place an all-out emphasis on participation of persons with disabilities in all spheres of life; and no such participation is possible without inclusion. Inclusion is a precondition to participation.
    To my mind, inclusion must be an all-pervasive phenomenon. However, given the prevailing realities, the so-called special schools will continue to play an important role for a long time to come. In my view, these schools can and should promote inclusion. Besides, our emphasis must be on imparting quality education to children with disabilities in an appropriate environment. Let us utilise the special schools in promoting inclusion rather than making such schools a casualty in the name of inclusion. Thus, inclusion should be understood and defined in proper perspective.

  3. Comment Continued
    The bottom-line is that disability has never been a Rights issue for anyone in India. Whatever has been granted to the disabled has been as through doling out alms. And, services made available to the handicapped sporadically have been subject to the “mercy” of the existing political and the bureaucratic machinery from time to time. This has led to irregular and indifferent services being provided as a token of charity rather than as a matter of right.

    Recently, how could I forget to quote this, certain visually handicapped people were successful in ‘convincing’ the Supreme Court that the sightless should be allowed to take the examinations for the civil services. It is another matter that they have still not been able to convince the ministry for petroleum and natural gas that sightless persons can successfully run gas agencies. The ministry’s logic is that the “danger would be too great”.It is sheer apathy towards the problems of the disabled that it elicits such ridiculous, horrible and unjustified responses from the keepers of our society. This indifference is directly related to the fact that the disabled have been unable to forge a powerful coalition. Why, I refer to recent examples from history- Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar did his bit for people who now dream of leading this country(Mayawati is almost there),Ganghiji led his charge for the harijans and more recently the Women’s Bill is all ready to play its legitimate in bringing the fairer sex, if not more, but atleast at par with the men.
    At least, not yet.Without a visible leadership, the Indian disability movement will continue to remain unnoticed. It is time the disabled defined their identity and marked their presence. If necessary, they be ready to parade instead of being closeted.