Poverty and disability have a cause and effect relationship with each other, one thing leading to another. Poverty-disability combination results in a condition of “simultaneous deprivation”. So unless and until the people with special needs are provided with education, they would not be able to gain financial independence and the real kind of rehabilitation would not take place.
Keeping in view this challenge, a large number of less developed and developing countries have started framing and executing policies to promote the educational facilities for the physically and mentally challenged students. But the right kind of patih to be followed in this respect should be of providing “Inclusive kind of Education”. It means that the students with some or the other kinds of handicap are served in the general settings rather than being educated in the segregated settings or “Special Schools”. Students with disabilities (mild to moderate) should be provided with facilities to attend regular schools under the responsibilities of regular teachers.
Integration and assimilation
With this objective of “ Education for All”, and with a purpose of integrating the physically and mentally challenged people in the society as equal members, the government of India has brought about a scheme known as Integrated Education for Disabled Children(IEDC). The overall aim of the program is to enable such people to face life courageously and develop a level of self confidence thus bringing them into mainstream of the society. IEDC is a centrally sponsored scheme which aims to provide Educational Opportunities to the “not so abled” children.
It has been regarded as one of the major initiatives from the Government of India to promote “integrated education”. This program was initiated in 1974 by the Ministry of Welfare, Central Government. Under this program children were to be provided with financial support for books, stationery, school uniforms, transportation, special equipment and aids. The state governments were provided with 50 percent of the financial assistance to implement this program in regular schools. But due to certain limitations and shortcomings like non-availability of trained and experienced teachers, lack of awareness of the problems of disabled children and their educational needs, and non-availability of equipment and educational materials, the program met with little success. Moreover there was a lack of coordination among the various departments for its proper implementation.
The IEDC program was revised in 1992. In the revised program 100 percent assistance was available to schools involved in the “integration” of students with disabilities. Various NGO’s are also now fully funded to implement the program. IEDC is being implemented in almost all the States and Union Territories.
Teacher training program
- This involves a three-level training approach:
- a five day orientation course for all the teachers in the regular schools
- six-week intensive training course for 10 percent of the teachers
- one-year multi-category training program for eight to ten regular school teachers
Now improved program planning and better management skills are available to teachers. The capacity of various states to implement integration programs has been enhanced. Both regular school teachers and students have become more receptive toward students with disabilities which seem quite encouraging.
Expenses and allowance
A disabled child may be given the following kinds of facilities at the rates prevalent in the State/UT concerned:
- Actual expenses on books and stationery up to RS 400 per annum.
- Actual expenses on uniform up to RS 200 per annum.
- Transport allowance up to RS 50 per month. If a disabled child admitted under the scheme resides in the school hostel within the school premises, no transportation charges would be admissible.
- Reader allowance of RS 50 per month in case of blind children after Class V.
- scort allowance for severely handicapped with lower extremity disability at the rate of RS 75 per month.
- Actual cost of equipment subject to a maximum of RS 2000 per student for a period of five years.
In the case of severely orthopedically handicapped children, one attendant should be there for 10 children, who may be given the standard scale of pay prescribed for Class IV employees in the State/UT concerned.
Disabled children residing in school hostels within the same institution where they are studying may also be paid boarding and lodging charges. The disabled children whose parental income does not exceed RS 5000 per month may be paid actual boarding and lodging charges subject to a maximum of RS 200 per month. However, unless the required educational facilities are not available disabled children should generally not be placed in hostels.
Orthopedically 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.
Breaking the barrier
It is mandatory remove all the architectural barriers or to modify existing architectural facilities, so that orthopedically disabled children are provided with an easy access to the school premises. Schools taking initiative in this respect would also be provided grants.
State Government/UT Administrations/other implementing agencies are also instructed to offer relaxation of rules relating to admissions, minimum or maximum age limit for admissions, promotions, examination procedures, etc. for improving access of the disabled children to education. Provision for admission of disabled children older than the normal eligibility (up to 8-9 years instead of 6 years) was proposed.
The road ahead
If fully implemented, this scheme has capability to change the educational status of more than 30 million children with disabilities who currently do not have access to any form of education. However, all this involves quite a large number of challenges both at micro as well as macro levels for the implementing authorities and the society as a whole. Such challenges and hurdles involve the problem of providing training to the key stakeholders, inadequate resources, innovative training programs, co-operation and collaboration among different ministries, coordination between schools and universities etc.
All these efforts are just a few steps that have been taken in providing the required educational facilities to the disabled children. Still a lot needs to done and accomplished. But this can’t be done till the attitudes and thinking of the non-disabled get revised. “The more severe and visible the deformity is, the greater is the fear of contagion, hence the attitudes of aversion and segregation towards the crippled” (Desai, 1990, p.19). Some of religious institutions inculcate dogmatic ideas which lead to the obstacles attempting to prevent inclusion of students with disabilities into regular schools. So it is imperative that prejudices and irrational myths concerning disability get alleviated before the actual task of inclusion begins.