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Every school should have a well-qualified counsellor: Activists

Three years after the Maharashtra State Board recognised and offered concessions to students with learning disability and autism, the battle is far from over for these children. Most schools have no special educators or counsellors, deny concessions and admissions to such kids and also harass parents to submit documents annually to prove their child’s condition. Mumbai-based activists demand every school should now have a counsellor and that existing rules be implemented diligently

In 2011, the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education finally recognised and offered concessions to students with learning disability (LD) and autism (see box on right) after city-based activists and counselors consistently fought for the cause and ensured that such kids were given proper education and accepted by the society.

Kids
The lackadaisical approach of schools has a negative impact on kids with learning disabilities

But three years hence, these kids continue to be ostracised by school authorities. Parents and activists have repeatedly complained about schools either acting ignorant to such cases or refusing to entertain them altogether. Over the last two years, city-based activists and counsellors have noticed a spurt in the number of cases where such special students have either been denied concessions or deprived of a chance to study in a mainstream school.


Over the last two years, city-based activists and counsellors have noticed a spurt in the number of cases where special students have either been denied concessions or deprived of a chance to study in a mainstream school. pic for representational purpose only

“I recently spoke to a parent where she was being harassed by the school and asked to submit documents to prove her child’s issue every year. This just shows that schools target not only students, but also parents. And since the state government isn’t monitoring this issue, this trend is likely to continue,” said Chitra Iyer, trustee of Forum for Fairness in Autism (FFA). This group was the first to demand concessions under the state board for students with autism. She also pointed out the blatant ignorance on the part of the schools, which has been adding to the woes of children with LD, autism and other spectrum disorders.

“Either the parents are not aware, or the schools act ignorant, but in the bargain, it’s the child who suffers. Schools are known to misguide parents to avoid handling the case themselves,” said Ashish Mehta, a city-based activist.

Lack of proper resources
Apart from ignorance, experts have also repeatedly pointed at lack of proper resources in schools as one of the main reasons for causing greater troubles for students with various forms of disabilities. “Most schools don’t have special educators or counsellors, who can handle such cases sensitively. For students with physical disabilities, it becomes even more difficult as most schools don’t have proper equipments or have other infrastructural limitations causing hindrance to the kids,” said Upasana Saraf, head counsellor with Bombay Cambridge Group of Schools.

Increasing number of complaints
Over the last two years, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) has received a series of complaints from parents of students with LD and autism. Last year, the commission passed an order against a Juhu-based ICSC school that had stopped allowing a seven-year-old autistic child from attending school. “We set up a committee to monitor the child during school hours and based on the report filed by the expert committee, the kid was deemed fit to attend a mainstream school along with a shadow teacher. This order and its recommendations have been referred to many other similar cases that the commission has witnessed henceforth,” said A N Tripathi, secretary of MSCPCR.

The need of the hour, say experts, is proper implementation of the rules that are already in place. “Even though the state education department states that every school should have a counsellor, this needs to be made mandatory. Proper action should be taken against schools that default. Also, there should be a compulsory education qualification that these counsellors need to possess,” added Saraf.

Concessions in SSC/ HSC board
>>
30 minutes extra time for SSC and an hour extra for HSC students is given
>> Exemption from third language for SSC students
>> Students may take a vocational subject instead
>> HSC students may take a vocational subject instead of the second language
>> Exemption from paper II in mathematics (Algebra and Geometry for SSC students.)
>> Students may take a vocational subject of 75 marks in lieu of Mathematics paper II
>> 20 grace marks during board exams
>> Use of a writer as per the rules.
>> Visually-impaired students are allowed to use tape-recorders in classrooms
>> Cursive writing is not enforced

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