Delhi Students with Special Needs Have to Make Do with Ill-Equipped Schools, Teachers

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), December 11, 2017 | Go to article overview

Delhi Students with Special Needs Have to Make Do with Ill-Equipped Schools, Teachers


India, Dec. 11 -- Since Ganesh was two, his father Sunil Khandelwal could tell that his son was "different". Now 13, Ganesh was constantly hyperactive, and Sunil says he consulted a long list of doctors for treatment, including ones at the All India Institute of Medical Science.

Ganesh was diagnosed to be severely intellectually impaired when he was five.

"More than treatment, I had to struggle in finding an appropriate school for him. I was not financially well off, so I approached all the government and municipal corporation schools in our neighbourhood. But Ganesh was refused admission everywhere because they had no special educators," said Khandelwal, who runs a small hardware shop in Sultanpur and is a Class 10 graduate himself.

While the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, allows children with special needs or those differently abled to pursue mainstream education, with 25% of seats in public schools reserved for students coming from economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups or children with special needs, and the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016 reinforced their right to a dignified life, many of these children remain without any formal education.

The shortfall of special educators in schools who can cater to their needs, the limitations of infrastructural support, the stigma and the lack of general awareness are the primary reasons for differently abled children struggling to get quality education. Meanwhile, progress has also been stalled by doubts about whether students with special needs can be integrated into mainstream classrooms.

For two consecutive years, Khandelwal says he approached everyone who he thought could help. "I wrote to the education department (South Delhi Municipal Corporation), the MLA of my area and several NGOs for appointment of a special educator," he said.

His efforts paid off in 2014, when Praval Yadav was appointed as a special educator at the neighbouring SDMC school. Soon, as the news of Yadav's appointment spread through word-of-mouth, 14 other differently abled kids took admission in the school.

Lack of special educators

Virender Sharma, a 17-year-old Class 12 humanities student at the Shaheed Hemu Kalani Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, liked to tell anyone who listens about how he won the Delhi government's excellence award for his CGPA of 8.4 when he was in Class 10.

"I got Rs.5,000, a medal and a certificate. I was one of the toppers of my school" he tells HT.

His achievement holds special meaning because he is one of the 46 visually impaired children in the school studying in Classes 9 to 12. At his school, there are three special educators who provide him additional support like tactile maps for his geography lessons. These specially trained instructors also help sensitise, empower and train other teachers in his school about their needs.

However, not many schools in Delhi have full-time special educators to cater to children like Virender, who may have special needs ranging from intellectual, hearing, visual and other impairments.

Going by the records from the education department, Delhi government and Municipal Corporations, only 536 full-time regular appointments have been made to the 2,691 sanctioned posts for special educators so far.

Taking cognisance of the issue, an NGO, Akhil Dilli Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, filed a complaint in September with the court of state commissioner for persons with disabilities and requested to provide at least one special educator in each school on a contract basis.

The three municipal corporations - North, South and East - have 1,661 schools, and for those schools, 102 special educators are appointed on permanent basis.

"We are aware of the crisis, but we are unable to do anything. For filling 1,540 vacancies of special educators (in primary schools), requisition has been sent to the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB) and same has been notified in August 2017. …

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