The famous saying that “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Trevor Noah further extended and said, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” The same analogy can be extended and applied to education. Here, fishing rod is equivalent to education. Education is basically a tool for empowerment, freedom and self-assertion. The systematic shortcomings in the educational sector of India are many but it is extreme for the Children with Special Needs (CWSN). According to Plan International, an advocacy group for children has commented that CWSN is ten times more likely to attend schools in comparison to other children.
Concrete Actions Towards CWSN Is Important
Working towards the education of CWSN is a work in progress that needs more focus. There lies confusion about whether inclusive schools need to be created or special schools should be built for CWSN. However, the choice itself is a problem as a simple one approach is not sufficient for our country that needs to cater to different geographic and socio-economic conditions. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, children of few socio-economic groups are not only learning through online classes but also through fun games like Scrabble Word Finder and on the other hand due to no accessibility of the internet, the education for less privileged children are suffering. India is actively trying to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals and one of the major goals includes education for all and therefore, in order to reach this goal both serious discussion and concrete action is extremely necessary.
Education Acts in India
The Right to Education (RTE) Act binds all the states to provide both compulsory and free education to all. Before the RTE Act, the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act empowered the local bodies to provide basic education to all. The move particularly demanded community participation in the educational field. Even though the educational sector improved, the resources available for special children have always remained inadequate.
India is a signatory of the Salamanca Declaration that took place in the 1990s advocating the CWS inclusion in all educational institutions. Later in 2006, the UN’s Convention on Rights with Persons with Disabilities became the first international treaty to include the rights of the person with disabilities to free, quality and inclusive secondary education which is at par with the community in which they reside. By being a signatory of this tragedy, India has taken the responsibility to ensure that CWSN has their right to education and the same is manifested in the Right to Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD)
Serious Efforts By SDMC
The efforts put by SDMC to ensure that CWSN is able to enjoy the benefits of the various acts to educate themselves is praise-worthy. SDMC started a door-to-door admission drive to ensure that all the children including the CWSN are enrolled in the schools which are present in their neighbourhood. The schools are also used as polling booths during the election session and according to the Election Commission, the polling booths should have a ramp and disabled-friendly toilets and this ensures that such assets are already present in the school which act as a huge bonus. Also, special educators are being recruited to bridge the gap between the CWSN and teachers and schoolmates. It is also very important to ensure that the children are having fun while learning and fun games like Word Unscrambler are used to making learning fun. Though plenty has been done, much needs to be still done.
Gaps In The System
To truly make education inclusive, a partnership should exist between government officials, teachers, parents and civil society organizations. Secondly, the civil society groups should engage with their direct participation and should further lend their support to meet the cause. Thirdly, resource centres should play a significant role in providing assistance for both academic and technological tools. Most of the institutions are making their campus and infraction CWSN friendly but still much needs to be done. A roadmap needs to be created while considering the important factors. The socio-economic concerns surrounding the CWSN needs to be ensured and both the civil society and the private players should join hands to meet the diverse needs of CWSN and both the financial and human resources needs to be mobilized.