India is not doing badly when it comes to inclusive and accessible education for all kids— unbelievable as it may sound, but that is what a number of people, who are working to identify disability among children early and begin rehabilitation, are saying. They were in front of UNESCO'S video cameras that went about tracking and recording work in the area of educating those with disabilities across the country.
If a centre in Guwahati was allowing the neighborhood children without disabilities to join the school for the disabled to bring in inclusion from the day formal education begins, one in Mumbai was identifying the disabled street kids and taking them to a government centre that works in the area of rehabilitation of the disabled.
Yet, as an official pointed out, a 15-year-old girl with disability, being taken for singing classes and the like, revealed that her wish was—to die. She did not want to be a burden to her family.
While a lot of good work was being done, there are "gaps between commitments made and realities", said Eric Fault, Director of UNESCO New Delhi as they released the report 'State of the Education Report for India 2019: Children with Disabilities' on Wednesday. The report comes as the country is debating the New Education Policy 2019.
Massively expand the use of information technology for the education of children with disabilities, and amend the RRE Act to better align with the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act by including specific concerns of education of children with disabilities, are among the ten recommendations of the report which is the first of its kind, but will be an annual publication, with vocational education as the focus for next year.
According to UNESCO, India is home to eight million children with disabilities, and 45 per cent of them fail to attain literacy. Globally 15 per cent of people are disabled.
The other recommendations include coordination under the Ministry of Human Resources Development for effective convergence of all education programmes for children with disabilities (now four ministries are involved); adequate budgetary allocation; strengthening of data systems for planning, implementing and monitoring; enriching school ecosystems and involving all stakeholders; ensuring no child with disability is left behind; transforming teaching practices; building positive disposition towards children with disabilities in the classroom and beyond, and fostering effective partnerships involving government, civil society, private sector and local communities.
The report is in sync with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 which aims to ensure "inclusive and equitable quality education” and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Eric Fault points out that children with disabilities should not be left behind.
A young educated lady said the importance of education and rehabilitation was not because society must do charity towards the disabled. It is because they, too, can make an economic contribution, whatever be the quantity. Most of the disability in any case was physical, she pointed out.