Special teachers should be appointed to teach special children, believes Kanchan Gaba, honorary secretary, National Academy of Blind and a renowned lawyer. In a country like India, people generally do not have much knowledge of physically-challenged children, leave alone the question of their education. Sometimes, even the parents fail to detect the problem. Kanchan Gaba also feels that to make India an empowered nation and to successfully implement Right to Education Act, special children need to be educated.
Not only the government but also the NGOs need to work on these special children. However, Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology (CAPART), an autonomous body functioning under the Rural Development Ministry, had withdrawn funds allotted to various NGOs as some of the organizations were found guilty of misappropriation of funds. In such a scenario, the NGOs working genuinely for the cause of educating special children have been affected.
According to Census 2001, there are 2.19 crore with disabilities in India who constitute 2.13 per cent of the total population. This includes persons with disabilities in seeing, hearing, speech, locomotor and mental. 75 per cent of persons with disabilities live in rural areas, 49 per cent of disabled population is literate and only 34 per cent are employed. In Tamil Nadu alone, there are 2.1 per cent of disabled people, reports Tamil Nadu Government Welfare of differently-abled persons policy 2010 -2011. The government boasts of 48 different programmes but fail to mention any success stories, or impact of these programmes.
It is to be noted that 1960 - 1970 witnessed a new initiatives in educational sector, it gained more prominence when UN General Assembly declared 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons, with equalization of opportunities and full participation of the disabled being the main goals. Different nations started realizing that without including children with special needs, education sector can never reach the desired goals.
Unfortunately, the situation to educate these special students is not satisfactory in India. According to Karnataka Parents Association of Mentally Retarded and Challenged (KPAMRC) honorary secretary J P Gadkari, there are only 3000 special educators to teach nearly 100,000 disabled children. In the absence of proper salary and service conditions, many do not opt for this profession. He further added that Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has provided an opportunity to the disabled to be educated in the mainstream schools. However, the issues of accessibility in terms of physical, educational, evaluation system have failed most of the persons with disability.
Inclusive Education remains mostly unsuccessful when it comes to the implementation of Government schemes, especially in rural India, feels Mrinmoy Bhowmick, a young film maker. Inclusive Education & Home based education under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan have not been implemented in many parts of the country. The condition is worst for visually impaired persons.
Why has the government not taken up any step to prepare a comprehensive database? What is the criteria followed to allocate, plan and implement training programmes to empower these students and teachers? Are there adequate training centres and institutes to give training to teachers? Are the instructors paid well? These are some of the basic questions which need to be answered.
Another recent study by the Rehabilitation Council of India reports that there are about 34.8 million deaf children in India and shockingly only one in ten goes to school. It also revealed that out of 3,168 deaf students, 1981(62.5%) male students and 1187(37.5%) female students attend schools. It is also reported that only 65 per cent teachers know about the hearing loss but most of them fail to identify various categories or degree of disability.
Sumathi, a special teacher shares her experience, "When we were holding workshops in Hassan on the importance of special education, a government teacher told me that it must be easy for me to come and give them lectures and make presentations on how to teach differently-abled kids but for them it was a Herculean task as they were not trained adequately.” Talking about the funds, she said that expecting funds from government is a long process and it rarely comes on time. To get things done in time, one should depend on one's own funds.
It is a high time that the concerned authorities like the HRD ministry, Social Welfare ministry and the like come together and work for the welfare of these special children. The change can be brought by giving proper training to the teachers, periodical inspections by the government to keep a check on utilization of funds, development of more number of special schools in rural areas, treating special teacher at par with government teachers, bringing transparency in working of NGOS and special schools and conducting awareness work shops and seminars in rural areas among others.
Parents' role is also one of the important factors in the education of special children, parents should consult medical professional as soon as they find some problem in their children, should provide special training, should visit the nearest National institutes based on the type of the disability. Last but not the least, government teachers or any other teachers can be trained on special education in the institutes like Kolkatta 's Manovikas Kendra Rehabilitation and Research centre for Handicapped, Jadavpur University, Rehabilitation Council of India and Manipal University among others.