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No rights for children with special needs?

As the state implements Right to Education Act, mid-day finds that the inclusion of children with special needs is still an overlooked clause in schools

Twelve-year-old Arjun Shah (name changed) loves his books and enjoys sharing them with his friends. What he doesn’t like is going to school, as he feels left out from the rest of his batch.

One of the main reasons why children with special needs feel left out, is because parents of other children discourage their kids to interact with them. Representation pic/thinkstock
One of the main reasons why children with special needs feel left out, is because parents of other children discourage their kids to interact with them. Representation pic/thinkstock

Arjun has dyslexia and is a slow learner, which often makes him a subject of ridicule among his classmates. Probably the only solace that he may have is that he is not the only one facing ridicule in schools.

At a time when the state education department is claiming complete implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, one of its clause seems to have been completely overlooked inclusion.

“Not only do schools wash their hands off children with special needs, even the education department doesn’t seem to be doing much. There have been many cases where parents have been misguided by schools and left in the lurch,” said Arundhati Chavan, president of PTA United Forum. Over the past few years, many cases have been brought to the notice of the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR).

In 2013, a single mother of a standard IX student of G D Somani Memorial School in Cuffe Parade had dragged the school authorities to the commission, alleging that the school had asked her to move her daughter to an ‘easier’ board, as she was a slow learner. The girl finally appeared for her Std X exams under state board.

Similar was the case of parents whose autistic child studying in Juhu’s Jamnabai Narsee School was asked to shift to a school for special children. The parents of the 7-year-old took the matter to MSCPCR, as well as the High Court. One year later, the school was instructed to reinstate the child.

“One of the main reasons why schools deny education to children with special needs, is because of the attitude and lack of awareness among parents of other children in the school.

They discourage their kids to interact with special needs children. Similarly, teachers have no knowledge about inclusion in class and are often not qualified to handle them,” said Swati Popat Vats, president of Podar Education Network.

“The success stories of children with special needs only come from schools where the management, including principals and teachers, have gone out of their way to design study programmes that include every child.

While the rules and regulations are in place, including concessions for special needs children, it is the school that needs to ensure that they are implemented,” said Chitra Iyer, trustee of Forum for Fairness in Autism.

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