Schools will need to adapt to accommodate differently-abled
Teacher training, new curricula essential if special needs children are to be integrated too.mumbai Updated: Apr 18, 2012 03:00 IST
Two years ago, nine schools refused to enroll Geet Doshi, then six years old, in Class 1 because he was autistic.
“My child had not developed verbal skills, was hyperactive and was seen as a slow learner,” said Sulekha Doshi, his mother. “Now he has settled down in a special school. I do not think a regular school will be able to do justice to him.”
Children with special needs are considered part of the disadvantaged group for whom 25% seats must be reserved in schools as per the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the RTE, stating that all private schools other than the minority unaided schools must enroll 25% disadvantage students and those from economically weaker sections.
“We will have to bifurcate and make arrangements for the disabled students who would benefit from the 25% clause,” said a state government official.
According to government officials, the provisions for teaching special children are in place, but implementation is lacking. “People who say there is no clarity on the RTE are those who want to escape from the responsibility of implementing the policy in their schools,” said Ajay Kakde, state coordinator for inclusive education, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
Before the act came into force on April 1, 2010, some schools were already following inclusive education policies. “We have autistic as well as students suffering from muscular dystrophy in our school,” said Rekha Vijaykar, director of Guru Harkishan School, Santacruz.
Inclusion of students with disabilities will require certain provisions including a curriculum which will suit them and teacher-training programmes, say experts. “The attitude of a school plays a crucial role in accepting special children. If a school is forced to enroll them, they will not benefit and go back to a special school,” said Chitra Iyer, trustee, Forum for Autism.
“Students from affluent families will have to rub shoulders with disabled students. This may not be liked by the former,” said Mithu Alur, director, Able Disable All People Together (ADAPT). “In schools abroad, pedagogic needs of every child have been addressed through teacher training programmes and our country can also do same.”