It took years of struggle by parents and activists to get children with special needs into mainstream education and all the effort seems to have been in vain, as those in need of support are still being ignored.
Looking at figures from the state education department, the falling numbers of children with various forms of disability when children move towards higher education, paints a poor picture of the education system in place. The District Information System for Education (DISE) report for 2013-14 shows how more than 80% of children with special needs studying in Std VIII drop out of the education system by the time they reach Std XII.
One can blame a number of factors for the slowly diminishing numbers of children with special needs in higher education, starting with lack of awareness, unwilling attitude of the education institutes to help these children, insistence on documental proof to prove disability, et al.
What’s sad is that over five years after the launch the Right of Children to Free And Compulsory Education Act one of the country’s landmark policies all fingers still point at the same problems.
It’s time to move away from simply listing problems and instead work on tackling them, starting with incentives for schools who welcome children with special needs, at the same time also penalising those institutes that flout norms. It’s time to put in place an education framework which accommodates all children, minus the bias. There also needs to be an easier process of getting documental proof to prove disability, and more testing centres need to be set up there are exactly three government-approved testing centers in Mumbai, due to which many children give up on mainstream education due to the never-ending wait for documents.
The need of the hour is to enable students with special needs, instead of disabling them further by means of a mismanaged education system. The newly-formed government should take this up on priority basis to implement much needed changes in the education system and ensure quality education for one and all.