Like most young parents, Amit and Madhu Gupta have been looking forward to the first day of school for their three-year-old daughter, Neha. But there’s a problem: Neha suffers from 100 per cent visual impairment and leading schools in the city have refused admission saying they simply do not have the facilities to educate Neha.
Ironically, Neha goes to a neighbourhood playschool where her teachers have been effusive in praising her skills in poem recitation, shape recognition and counting.
“We want Neha to grow up in an inclusive environment. We certainly don’t want to put her in a blind school,” says Amit Gupta.
The Ganguly Committee recommendation allocates five points for children with special needs. The Disabilites Act, 1995 states that schools cannot deny admission. The law requires schools to be accessible. Yet, Neha is still to get admission. “Most schools tell us they do not have adequate facilities for coping with my daughter,” says Madhu Gupta.
The parents say they had met with officials at the Raghubir Singh Junior Modern School on December 9. The headmistress, Manju Gupta told them the school did not have the infrastructure for Neha, they say.
Rajput, however, says she had merely apprised the parents that her school did not offer any special infrastructure for children with disability.
“Whether such children should be admitted or not is a management decision. I have instructions from the management to forward all such cases to them. But the father asked for a guarantee that his child should be admitted. How can we do it based on only one parameter?” asks Rajput.
Gupta says he faced a similar situation at Tagore International (Vasant Vihar). “The principal said they would decide later about such cases,” said Gupta. Tagore International, principal Madhulika Sen, however, denies any such possibility. “We have 20 visually impaired students and we have a tie-up with the National Association for Blind. We will decide how many such children can be accommodated this year. The parents did not approach me,” she says.
The authorities at St Francis De Sales School (Janakpuri) are, however, categorical. “How can we take a blind student if we do not have the facilities? They should take the child to a blind school,” says school administrator Father Philip.
The Guptas aren’t alone. Javed Abidi, convenor of the Disabled Rights Groups says only 0.2 per cent children with disabilities find a place in the city’s schools.
Educationists and those working with the disabled say it is time schools turn inclusive. “According to United Nations statistics, 10 per cent of the population suffers from some form of disability. Schools that are known for their quality education should be the first to provide inclusive education. Or else how can you claim to be a leader?” says Shayama Chona, principal DPS (R K Puram) and member Ganguly committee. Neha’s search for a school, meanwhile, continues.
(The applicants’ names have been changed to protect identities)