A vast majority of disabled children are not getting appropriate education and the existing coverage is very poor. Thus, special measures have been taken by the Government of India in the recently enacted Disability Act, 1995. The Act provides that the Government shall ensure that every child with disability has access to free education in an appropriate environment till the age of 18 years. This casts responsibility on the state to ensure that within a specified timeframe every child, no matter what his/her disability, has accessibility to formal or non-formal education.
It is estimated that India has approximately 35 million children with disabilities but less than one per cent have access to education. Currently only blind, deaf, mentally retarded children are largely covered. Other categories like children with low vision, learning or emotional disability have not been attended to.
According to Rehabilitation Council of India’s report on Manpower development (1996), estimated on the basis of the NSSO report, population of children with disabilities in the age group 5-14 is as follows :Locomotor Handicap 8.94 million
Hearing handicap 3.24 million
Speech handicap 1.96 million
Visual handicap 4.01 million
Mental retardation 9 million
Cerebral palsy 3 million
The statistics on mental illness are not available.
Education For All
Education is the beginning of empowerment. Special attention is, therefore, given to the education of persons with disabilities. The policy of the Government of India is to put mildly disabled children in normal schools and the children with severe disabilities in special schools. The Ministry of Human Resources Development, Department of Education has formulated a scheme known as Integrated Education for Disabled Children (IEDC) which purports to provide educational opportunities for disabled children in common schools. The objective is to integrate the disabled with the general community at all levels as equal partners to prepare them for normal growth and to enable them to face life with courage and confidence.
The Scheme has following facilities :
- Actual expenses on books and stationary upto Rs. 400 per annum.
- Actual expenses on uniform upto Rs. 200 per annum.
- Transport allowance upto Rs. 50 per month.
- Reader allowance of Rs. 50 per month in case of blind children after Class V.
- Escort allowance of Rs. 75 per month for severely handicapped with lower extreme disability.
- Payment of the actual cost of equipment subject to a maximum of Rs. 2000 per month for a period of five years.
- As for severely orthopaedically handicapped children, it may be necessary to allow one attendant for every 10 children in a school. The attendant would be given the standard scale of pay prescribed for Class IV employees in the concerned State/UT.
- Disabled children residing in school hostels within the same institution where they are studying are paid board and lodging charges as admissible under the State Government rules/schemes. Where there is no State scheme of scholarships to hostelers, the disabled children, whose parental income does not exceed Rs. 5,000 per month, are paid actual board and lodging charges subject to a maximum of Rs. 200 per month. However, disabled children are generally placed in hostels only when the required educational facilities are not available in schools near their residences.
- Severely orthopaedically handicapped children, residing in school hostels, may need the assistance of a helper or an ayah. A special pay of Rs. 50 per month is admissible to any employee of the hostel willing to extend such help to children in addition to his/her duties.
By the end of Eighth Plan, an estimated 50,000 disabled children in over 12,000 schools benefited from the scheme for the integrated development of the disabled children.
IEDC is a centrally sponsored scheme and is presently being implemented in 24 States/UTs. A number of Voluntary Organisations are implementing the scheme in various states of India.
The PIED (Project Integrated Education for the Disabled), was launched in 1988 as field demonstration of providing equal education opportunity to children with physical and intellectual impairments and to realise the goal of ‘education for all’ in different contexts. The project is currently running in eight states – Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Mizoram, Nagaland, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Maharashtra and in the cities of Delhi and Baroda. It is supported by UNICEF, Ministry of Human Resources Development and the State Governments. The main objectives of the scheme are :
- To improve efficiency of the general education system to meet the educational needs of all children.
- To develop context specific strategies to meet special needs in the general educational system.
- Modalities for meeting special needs in ten different contexts.
- Identificaiton, assessment and enrolment of thirteen thousand children.
- Infusion of special needs in teacher education curriculum for primary and secondary teachers.
- Preparation of District Institutes of Education and Training to implement special needs programme in lab areas.
- Production of print and non print material.
- Project Management Information System.
- Children with Seeing Problems : Focus on Remaining Sight.
- Functional Assessment Guide.
- Source Book for Teachers of Visually Handicapped.
- Planning and Management of IEDC.
- Source Book for Teachers of Hearing Handicapped.
- Handbook for Teachers on IEDC.
- Adjustment and Adaptation guidelines for teaching science to hearing handicapped children.
- Organising Resource Room.
- Multicategory Teacher Training Programme.
- Early Identification and Intervention Training Programme for Anganwadi Worker.
- Evaluation of Implementation of IEDC in states.
- Effectiveness of training of Anganwadi workers for early detection and intervention in Mizoram.
Ministry of Welfare has also launched a scheme for the Establishment of Special Schools under which 90 per cent assistance is given for establishment of new special schools and for the upgradation of existing schools (for details see Chapter 6). A special scheme of manpower development was also introduced in 1991–92 under which 100 per cent assistance is provided for running training courses for teachers in the area of cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Another important programme initiated by Government of India, but now with the State/Union Territories is of awarding scholarships to disabled and the orthopaedically handicapped students. The National Open Schools offer facilities to handicapped children to take up study on their own, at home without the need to go to the conventional schools. Similarly the Indira Gandhi National Open University offers facilities to the disabled students for higher education through distance learning programmes.
More than 10,000 Interpointing Braille writing Frames have been distributed free of cost to the visually handicapped school going children. Disabled children are eligible for availing free educational aids and appliances under the central scheme of Assistance for the Purchase/Fitting of Aids and Appliances (for details see Chapter 6). A major problem in the education of visually handicapped children is providing text books. India has 18 Braille presses in the country to meet the requirement of Braille text books. National Institute of Visually Handicapped is computerising its Braille press.
NCERT’s Programmes :
With the aim of finding ways to create conditions to accommodate pupil diversity and to facilitate learning for all children, NCERT has worked out curriculum adjustment, adaptation of teaching methods and materials for the users. NCERT has also developed a package to facilitate and promote the Child-to-Child concept.
Teleschool on Special Needs–Reach out Programme for Parents and Teachers
Teleschool on special needs is a reach out programme for the parents and teachers of children with special needs. A telecast every alternate Saturday is backed by print material and interaction through NGOs, wherever available. It is sponsored by the Science and Technology Mission Mode, Ministry of Welfare, through the National Council of Educational Research and Training, Delhi and the National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad.
Disabled children are a distinct group whose basic learning needs should be catered to by special programmes. The number of special schools in our country is inadequate. There are 1200 special schools for the disabled in India which have an enrolment of about 55,000 disabled students. Limited educational opportunities exist for those outside the four main categories (such as for those with cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy and multi-disabilities). Specialised services available in these schools, located primarily in the urban areas, have limited accessibility (National Convention on the Rights of the Child). Each district in the country has a population of approximately 20 lakhs and is provided with 1000 primary schools. In a class of approximately forty children, at least one or two children have mental handicap and are in need of special educational inputs (S.S. Varma, Former Secretary of Welfare, Government of India). There are no facilities and the disabled population is almost never reached except through some outreach programmes.
The National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986 had provided for the education of disabled children in the regular school system, thus emphasising the integration of children with physical and mental disabilities with the community. Disabled children must be accorded equal opportunity for normal growth and development and should be treated as equal partners in the community. The Plan of Action, 1992 estimated that about 10.39 million children with disabilities must be provided education in the regular school system. The Eighth Five Year Plan had also provided opportunities to disabled people for education, vocational training and economic rehabilitation.
NGO’s Efforts at Integration
Even if at the policy level it has been accepted by the government that disabled children are entitled to education, most disabled children do not get any education at all or the education they receive is generally inferior to the one received by other non-disabled children. The conventional residential school for disabled children system of education, despite the best efforts, remains outside the reach of a vast majority of disabled children. Those who do get it are forced to remain outside the mainstream activities of society and accept exclusion from it as a matter of routine. With the kind of education and orientation disabled children get at special schools their integration in society remains a dream at best. Apart from a few educational institutions being run by selected NGOs or private individuals, the facilities, such as accommodation or equipment or quality of teaching or mode of transport, at such schools remain poor or inadequate and frequently outside the reach of not-so-well-to-do families.
A number of schools in the private sector as well as voluntary organisations have adopted the integration approach, covering a wide spectrum of services. The integration procedures range from near total to partial. Some schools have devoted an entire wing of the main school to the education of children with special needs. In some, the children have been integrated in the appropriate mainstream classrooms. Options for partial integration have extended beyond pure academics to extra curricular activities and the freedom to have access to all other facilities in the school. A few schools do not have a regular programme of integration but occasionally admit children with special needs. Greater concentration, however, is of the mildly affected rather than the moderately disabled in integrated settings and the very severely affected in limited special facilities.
Since the general education system is not as yet ready for an integrated educational approach catering to the disabled children, integration, at present, is not taking place in any systematic manner.
Furthermore, in many cases special schools run by registered NGOs are not recognised by Education/Welfare Departments of State Governments and thus, create considerable problems for the schools, parents and children (Social Audit Report). The scheme of assistance to voluntary organisations for establishing special schools was introduced in 1993–94 to cover districts where no facilities existed, 240 districts identified by the Ministry of Welfare are yet to be covered under the scheme.
The working group of the Planning Commission has set the target for the future that the coverage, as far as education is concerned, should be increased to 25 per cent by 2000 A.D. to 50 per cent by 2005 A.D. and to 100 per cent by 2010 A.D.
Education of disabled children is a component in the training of educational planners, administrators, and pre-service and in-service teachers. Efforts aimed at the universalisation of elementary education, however, are concentrated only in selected areas and reach only a fraction of disabled children.
The teachers, by and large, are neither motivated nor equipped with requisite skills to provide for their special needs. The attitudes of teachers, which reflect the intention of the total educational system, are not conducive to the education of disabled children. The inaccessibility of the schools and classrooms add to the practical problems of the disabled children and must be resolved without further delay.
There is an urgent need to ensure the provision of education for disabled people. Several factors, individually and collectively, influence the right to equality including the development of a national conscience, political will power, government and local support, legal support, effective implementation of educational processes, administrative and bureaucratic set-up, necessary changes in staff training for all educators, parental support and community involvement, and inter-agency co-operation. To achieve the ambitious goal of universalisation of education, educational opportunities for disabled children should be expanded and must include non-formal education, distance learning, open schools, etc. (National Conference on Welfare of Disabled, 1993).
Inclusive Education – An Alternative ?
The National Policy on Education (NPE) – 1986 emphasised INCLUSION while launching schemes for integrated education. Integrated education represents a supportive approach to serving those with special needs and is based on the principles of inclusion.
International declarations, recommendations at world conferences and national seminar, etc., all agree on the right to education for all children with special needs. With the scheme of “Inclusive Education” all government programmes can realise the national philosophy and policy of `Education For All’. The 1983 World Programme of Action, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1990 World Declaration on ‘Education for All’, and now the U.N. Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities and finally in 1994, the Salamanca Statement – all focus on the same thing in different ways – the child with special needs.
Inclusive Education means what it says. Include the child with special needs in the same way in which you would include any other child. This approach recommends education of children with special needs in the overall general educational structure of a nation. This also means beginning education at the very start in early childhood and continuing it right through the whole educational system. It will also mean adapting the entire school structure, the buildings and furniture, the teacher training curriculums and the attitudes of the siblings, parents and public to include children with special needs in a regular school system. It should lead to an educational system which is explicitly disabled friendly.
In 1988, the UNESCO Consultation on Special Education had recognised that the responsibility for special education was that of the total education system. It stated that there should not be two separate systems of educational provision. Yet Special Schools in India come under the purview of the Welfare Ministry while Integrated Education is the responsibility of the Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development.
Separate special education systems lead to social segregation and isolation of the disabled, thus creating separate worlds for them in adult life. Inclusive education has the potential to lay the foundation of a more inclusive society where being “different” is accepted, respected and valued. The school is the first opportunity to start this desirable and yet difficult process. It is difficult because it is wrought with fears and apprehensions on the part of parents, teachers and other children.
Continued Need for Specialised Services
What will happen to many special schools now working exclusively for children with special needs ? What will happen to the specialised teacher training programmes ? Who will decide which child can benefit from inclusive education ? Who needs special education because they cannot fit into a regular school system ? These are some of the questions that need careful consideration.
Inclusive education does not necessarily mean that the need for specialists will be any less. There will always be a need for special schools in our country for children with severe disabilities. Such schools will take on new roles and their responsibilities will include the planning and execution of education as a whole. Special education should be seen as a comprehensive and flexible service designed to meet the varied and changing needs of all students throughout their education. Vocational education in special and integrated settings is an essential part of the training of disabled children at different stages.
Employment and Vocational Training
The Government of India has set up 47 Special Employment Exchanges and 41 Special Cells in the normal Employment Exchanges. The objective of the scheme is to help the handicapped persons in getting gainful employment. Over 49,000 handicapped persons have been given placement through these Special Employment Exchanges and Special Cells. Out of 49,000 the number of visually handicapped persons are 4158, hearing handicapped are 4126, orthopaedically handicapped are 40,589. The total number of disabled persons in the live register of the Employment till June 1994 was 3,18,973. The Scheme is implemented through the State Governments/UTs. The extent of financial assistance is 100 per cent in case of special cells and 50 per cent in case of new Employment Exchanges for additional staff. The State/UTs Governments share was increased to 80 per cent for establishing Special Employment Exchanges.
Under Apprentices Act, 1961, disabled people are trained in various industrial establishments. Three per cent of vacancies are reserved for people with disabilities. About 76 per cent of the handicapped people live in rural areas. To provide rehabilitation services in rural areas, the Government of India introduced, on a pilot basis, a scheme to establish District Rehabilitation Centres (DRCS) in 11 selected districts of the country. The DRCs have comprehensive rehabilitation responsibilites to all handicapped individuals in the geographical area of the district which has a population ranging between one to two million persons. The main objectives of the scheme are:
- To devise suitable delivery systems.
- To promote the most cost effective technologies;
- To restructure jobs of rehabilitation professional, so that a minimum number of specialists could be utilised for delivery of the services.
For the purpose of coordination in administration, there is a Central and Co-ordination Unit (CACU). Four Regional Rehabilitation Training Centres (RRTC) have been set up to impart training to DRC functionaries. A National Information Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation has been established at the central level. The Ministry of Welfare has formulated a new scheme under which rehabilitation services, like early detection, employment guidance and assistance etc. would be provided to all categories of persons with disabilities through voluntary organisations, funded directly by the Ministry of Welfare. Various States/Union Territories Governments give facilities and concessions, such as pension to the handicapped persons. Old age persion is given at varying rates by almost all the State/Union Territories Governments.
Vocational training to persons with disabilities is imparted in specialised institutions as well as in ordinary training institutions. The Government of India has established 17 Vocational Rehabilitation Training Centres (VRCs) in the country, 2 of which are only for handicapped women. The VRCs are located mostly in state capitals and act as models for State Governments to set up more centres depending on their needs. At 7 of these centres, skill training facilites have also been provided as an extension of rehabilitation services. The VRCs for women are also proposed to be provided with skill training facilities. The activities of the VRCs arrange in-plant training to handicapped persons depending upon their vocational capabilities and aptitudes. The Sixth Plan period covered the rural handicapped population and 11 Rural Rehabilitation Extension Centres (RRECs) were provided at the Block Head Quarter attached to 5 selected District Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs). The main task of these centres is to make vocational assessment of the handicapped and to impart them short term training. Each year, the VRCs are able to rehabilitate about 7000 handicapped persons in various areas. Besides, India has about 2000 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIS) out of which 852 are government run and the rest are private. These institutes give practical training in a variety of engineering and non-engineering occupations. Three per cent of the vacancies have been reserved for the handicapped. ITIs are catering to 3,32,700 trainees.
A number of voluntary organisation assisted by the Central and State Governments also run vocational courses, e.g. Amar Jyoti Trust, Fellowship of the Physically Handicapped, National Society for Equal Opportunities for the Handicapped, the National Association for the Blind, and the All India Federation of the Deaf. Blind Men’s Association runs a variety of vocational courses including technical trades recognised by the Department of Technical Education and stenography course recognised by the Department of Education. This list is only illustrative. There are about 142 voluntary organisations who offer facilities for vocational training to disabled persons. The six National Institutes/Apex Level Institutions have also been given powers to sponsor persons with disablities for employment. Some leading national level non-governmental organisations have also established employment and placement services with the assistance of the Ministry of Welfare for promoting employment of disabled persons.
Three per cent vacancies in Group ‘C’ & ‘D’ posts have been reserved in the Central Government and in Public Sector undertakings – one per cent each for the blind, the deaf and the orthopaedically handicapped. The age of entry is relaxed by 10 years. Most of the State Governments have also reserved two to three per cent vacancies for persons with disabilities. With the ‘Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, three per cent vacancies in Group ‘A’ & ‘B’ posts have also been reserved.
The Supreme Court of India has decided that blind persons are entitled to appear for various competitive examinations including the highest level examination for the All India Services. Persons with disabilities are allowed postings near their homes to the extent possible. Preference in government accommodation is given to people with disabilities.
All Nationalised Banks give loans at lower rate of interest of four per cent to people with disabilities for self employment. The Department of Telecommunication allocates Telephone Booths to persons with disabilities on a priority basis. This has become a good income generating programme for many people with disabilities. People with disabilities are given gas and petrol agencies on a preference basis.
Under Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) of the Department of Rural Development, Government of India, at least three per cent of the benefits have been earmarked for the physically handicapped persons. IRDP is a self-employment programme under which institutional loan and a small amount of subsidy is given to the beneficiaries who are below the poverty line. They are also entitled to fifty per cent subsidy subject to a maximum of Rs. 6000/-. Under this programme, approximately 25,000 disabled people have benefited during the last three years.
The scheme ‘Training of Rural Youth for Self Employment’ (TRYSEM) of the Department of Rural Development, Government of India, provides technical and entrepreneurial skills to rural youth from families below poverty line to enable them to acquire skills and expertise in the selected trade and take up self-employment. Under this programme three per cent of the benefits have been earmarked for the physically handicapped persons who are capable of taking up training under the scheme and subsequently of being self-employed. Over 2000 handicapped youths have been trained under this programme during the last three years.
There is a proposal to set up a National Handicapped Finance Corporation with the objective to promote economic and development activities and self-employment of handicapped persons; to sanction loans and advances and grant concessional finances; to extend loan for general/professional/technical and entrepreneurial development, technology, and common facility process centres etc; to assist State level organisations; to network as apex institutions for coordinating and monitoring the work of corporations/boards/voluntary organisations in the States and help in furthering government policies and programmes for development of handicapped persons.