23 Aug Education of People with Disability in India
The Sustainable Development targets for 2030 aim to achieve equal access, for everyone, to opportunities for primary, secondary and vocational education.
It is necessary to take a glimpse at the 2016 updated census in order to get a sense of literacy among persons with disabilities. 2.68 Cr, i.e. 2.21% of India’s population are persons with disabilities of various kinds and degrees. Of this, literacy rate is 67% in urban areas while it is 49% in rural India. Further, education up to +2 is 20% and Graduation and above is 10% among Urban population and it is 10% and 2% respectively in Rural part of the country. Even more alarming scenario is that 38% of Children with disabilities between in the age group of 6-13 years are out of school, while it is still worse in case of certain disabilities.
These statistics demand to throw light on two aspects of education for persons with disabilities. One, Lack of access to education and the other being the kind of access available for those who could or aspire to avail.
Scenario of Inaccessibility to education for Children with Disabilities is a composite of the following factors:
- Insufficient disability-friendly Physical Infrastructure at educational institutions;
- Absence of conducive learning environment at institutions caused by absence of learning resources specific to the needs of children with disabilities, such as specialist/ trained teachers and teaching/ learning tools/ aids;
- Hostile societal eco-system that includes parents themselves, academia and community at large, with their attitudes, assumptions and apprehensions, remain indifferent to acknowledge the abilities of children with disabilities and encourage them realizing their potential;
- In certain cases, not identifying special needs at childhood stage resulting in not understanding learning difficulties and needs and further, not accessing relevant opportunities.
Now, the other impediment to work on that potentially slows down the endeavors towards achieving the SDGs is the kind of access available to the children with disabilities.
Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities strongly recommended that Nations must ensure equality and inclusivity for all in providing access to quality education. Inclusivity, as a principle, refuses to acknowledge socio-economic, physical or gender based disparities in the pursuit of accessing and exercising fundamental rights of every human being. Inclusivity therefore demands to embrace all irrespective of differences and provide accessibility to all in common social platforms including education for children with disabilities.
However, implementation of the spirit of inclusivity is still far fetched and not well grounded yet. Explanations to the state of affairs in this area are numerous:
- Social/ Parental Treatment- Traditionally, The perception is that children with disabilities are incapable of learning on par with the other children and at times, they’re even seen as speed breakers for others.
- Availability of Human Resources- Certain disabilities require special assistance to cope up with the learning, for eg. Sign language interpreter among other needs. Provision of such resources at every/ most institutions is found to be charging or difficult considering the small number of such needy children in each institution and availability of expertise in large numbers.
- Additionally, accessible infrastructure is not ensured everywhere, in fact, such arrangement is almost non-existent.
These conditions result in leaving such children in Special schools where the children are separated from parents, left to study in isolation away from other children of their neighbourhood. While there are certain advantages, especially for certain categories of disabilities, it is also important to note one critical side effect with such arrangements: the sociological and psychological impact. Low self esteem, low self confidence and this feeling of being an ‘outcaste’ always linger and stay dormant in the deeper layers of children’s young minds which is difficult to work on at later stages.
Needless to say, that a society that offers equal opportunities backed by a supportive eco-system flourishes socially and economically. The current scenario calls for a sustained, collaborative effort not only from the Governance, but from each and every spoke of the community to improve the status of education for children with disabilities.