Saturday, December 19, 2009

Right to Education Act and Children with Disabilities

Dear Friends,

Now the Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India has indicated that what best they can do to include Children with Disabilities in the RTE Act  2009 is by including them under the Definition of "Disadvantaged Children". And that is their bit.

Any thing further is not their cup of tea and Ministry of Social Justice should do something to amend the Persons with disabilities Act. There can not be any thing worse than this. The fact is that the children with disabilities are no one's babies when it comes to inclusion and equal rights.

Isn't it simple that Ministry of HRD being the nodal ministry for Education  should also deal with education of children with disability? I fail to understand as to how education of children with disabilities becomes a welfare issue? This needs to stop right now and the RTE bill needs to be amended conclusively to provide for all support, special educators, therapists,  reasonable accommodation and inclusive schools based on universal design. Nothing less than that is going to be acceptable to us!

There is good news that Delhi Government is changing the Recruitment Rules of the Teachers to include Recruitment Rules for Special Educators and related matters after the recent Delhi High Court judgement in Social Jurists PIL. However, the situation in other states is pathetic and grave.

The Education for All "सर्व शिक्षा अभियान" has actually failed to cater to the needs of children with disabilities in an inclusive set up. It is impossible to include children in the mainstream without proper preparation of teachers, infrastructure and support systems. Also only appointment of two Special Educators per school in the National Capital Territory Region will not serve the larger needs and the states have to take proactive measures to address the issue. Till today, there is no talk of developmental therapists, speech therapists, mobility trainers and other rehabilitation professional being included as a part of mainstream schools which are otherwise a necessary part of Special schools run by NGOs.

The First Country Report on action taken by Indian Government on UNCRPD is due in May 2010. The Union Government has sought reports from States as what actions they have taken in these areas and I received a frantic call from one leading State NGO from one of the states asking that the State Welfare department is asking about UNCRPD and what is that Government is required to do in light of this. I was taken aback but this is sadly the truth! Many departments in state governments are not even aware or have taken no pains to even open the convention document that Union Government might have sent to them.

In such situation, there is an urgent and calling need for the NGOs and the DPOs to act as monitors and get the systems working. On its own, nothing would happen and we need to show the road to the implementing agencies and the Governments. Its our cause and we can't wait for it to happen on its own, at the whims and fancies of State. The Persons with Disabilities Act is a live testimony to this which has not been fully implemented even after nearly one and a half decade of its being passed by the Parliament of India.

I see a new role for the NGOs - that of  "Facilitators of Change" and "Advocacy Organisations" and "Resource Centres" to guide the Government rather than merely restricting themselves to the role of a Service Provider.

Its when you get engaged in Providing Service, you have no time or energy left to act as Resource Centre or advocacy organisation and also you keep chasing the grant applications to the Government to run the schools and other services. And that is what precisely the Government want you to remain engaged in!

We have to understand that education of children with disability is a fundamental right of the children which the Government is bound to provide for in terms of  systems, infrastructure and finance. Thus there is no point in NGOs seeking grants which are often very subjective and do not cover even the 50% of the expenses if rightfully done. I had taken up few cases for NGOs where the workers of the NGOs went against their employers in the Labour Courts seeking minimum wages and what I learnt from NGOs was that the grant that comes for a helper is merely 2000 Rupees which is far less than the minimum wage of an unskilled worker in Delhi. The matters are pending in High Court where Grant making Ministries have been impleaded as necessary parties for proper adjudication of the case! And I am well aware what is going to be the outcome of such petition!

Therefore it is the right time for NGOs to redcue their role as Service Provider and gradually move towards their new and calling role as Resource Centres, Research bodies and be a part of Advocacy and Monitoring mechanism to ensure that the rights of persons with disability to live with dignity in society on an equal basis with others are realised to its full and rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are progressively realised.

Another worrying issue that we should be concerned with too is the second amendment which HRD ministry is contemplating to bring in RTE Act to satisfy the powerful lobby of minority institutions who do not want to be governed by State Laws at the same time want to continue receiving grants/aids from the Government. These schools if exempted from constituting School Management Committees (which is a powerful tool to increase citizen's participation in the school management and check misuse of public funds) they could do what they like without any external check including refusal to take in children with disabilities. The move should be resisted by one and all to ensure participation of civil society and stakeholders in the process of education and maintain transparency in the delivery of quality education to all including children with disabilities.
regards
Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Advocate-Disability Rigths, subhashvashishth@gmail.com, 9811125521

To read the press coverage on RTE click here

RTE Act to cover kids with disabilities

NEW DELHI: Children with physical, learning and speech disabilities would now be put under the disadvantaged category in the Right to Education Act.

The Cabinet will soon take up HRD ministry's cabinet note seeking amendment in the RTE Act. Another amendment seeks to exempt schools run by minority organisations from setting up School Management Committees.

However, the amendment bill will be introduced only in the budget session of Parliament.

In the last session of Parliament, when the RTE Bill was passed, disabled rights groups had protested against non-inclusion of disabled children in the disadvantaged category. Disability will be further explained to include disabilities mentioned in the People with Disabilities Act and National Trust Act. But since PWD Act does not include cerebral palsy, autism and multiple disability, RTE amendment bill will specifically mention disabilities like dyslexia, aphasia and learning and speech disabilities.

Sources, however, said amending RTE to include disabilities is not enough. "Social justice ministry should move a comprehensive amendment bill to amend PWD Act. HRD ministry has done its bit," a source said.

The second amendment states that schools run by minority bodies will be exempted from setting up School Management Committees. The proposed amendment, sources said, will exclude schools managed by minority organisations from constituting School Management Committees. Right now, only unaided schools not receiving any kind of aid or grant from the government or local authorities are excluded from setting up school management committees (SMCs).

The amendment comes in the wake of demand from many states and minority-run institutions that they be exempted from setting up SMCs because it contravenes Article 30 of the Constitution that gives minorities right to establish and administer educational institutions. The amendment will be carried out in sub-clauses of clause (n) of Section 2 of the Act as well as in section 21 of the Act. It will specifically mention that minority-run institutions need not have SMCs. In the RTE Act, SMCs have a big role to play in the running of schools. Half the members of the committee will be women.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post and I appreciate your advocacy on behalf of the many in India who do not experience educational access and equality.

I would love to add your blog as a resource to mine at http://lifedevelopmentinstitute.wordpress.com.

It is a place where I try to share what is going on to enhance or prevent a better quality of life for adults with disabilities- an even more forgotten social/cultural minority than children with educational disabilities.

Warm regards,

Rob Crawford

kat said...

hi,
The right thing to do is the leave children whatever they are, the term disadvanatged looks odd on children.. When we have equal rights children should be having faith in equal rights. I am not for this or any term

karthik iyer

SC Vashishth said...

@Rob Crawford -Thanks for your kind words. India is holding good promise for children with disabilities in the days to come but keeping a tab on the system is what is the prime focus of advocacy. With the recent Delhi High Court Ruling, the mainstream schools have started recruitment of special educators and we hope the situation would improve in the days to come with the
Central Government of India is quite open to suggestions.
Thank you for adding my blog as a resource. I quite liked the ideas posted at life development institute too!

@Karthik - I agree that terming them disadvantage is disastrous but when it comes to special schemes and concessions and facilities, the authorities often use such terms to differentiate the vulnerable sections with such words. Naming is problematic but then you got to give a noun to indicate certain section. Perhaps a better word which would again get in to quagmire of being politically correct! I agree children should be children and when the education is based on universal design, it would include all!

Please keep in touch
Warm regards
SC Vashishth

meenakshi said...

hi,
very interesting notings,
I agree with the sleeping attitude of the govt. when it comes to the education of children with disabilities with only endless excuses.
I appreciate your call to NGOs to step up further as service providers to the resource centers. well, some of the states or major cities do not have basic services available to the children with disabilities , so NGOs have to reach out to them even if they have their hands full. I think by providing services to them at the basic level NGOs are empowering the families and an individual with disabilities in the times to come! If NGOs sidetrack their prime point then how will we address the education of children with disabilities !!!
However, I agree 100% and there are no doubts that even greater efforts are required to make education a prime focus of each child including child with disabilities.
Let us continue providing services and creating awareness about them.
Regards,