Friday, September 3, 2010

Can the Private Schools really become Disabled friendly without Government Support ?

Dear Friends,

I am surprised at the recent move of Directorate of Education, Delhi directing the private schools to make their school buildings accessible- though without any time frame. It is surely to pass the buck emanating from not only the recent Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act but also the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 by which they are bound.

In the present scenario, making all existing private schools in Delhi accessible is next to impossible by such directives alone. Has the department of education bothered to go and check the limitations under which the private schools function? These shops came up only because the Education Department failed its mandate. It did not provide quality education and hence the parents, including those of children with disabilities looked at private options. Private options, however, charitable they may be, will be restricted by the funds and infrastructure. Now whether it is private mainstream schools or private special schools, money is an important motive, more so for the former kind of schools if not for NGO run (not for profit) special schools.

These schools run in small plots of lands in narrow lanes with hardly any space for play grounds or field work or for other school activities. Most often, these schools are multi-floor with space & economic constraints to make a ramp or construct a lift. Since profit is the one of the chief considerations besides social service in these private schools, every penny invested in retrofitting must give them some benefit else it is a burden on them. You can't expect them to do things in charity for 3% of population for they are not governed by the social justice mandate. When the Government who are governed by the social justice mandate fails to provide accessible and disabled friendly school infrastructure with quality education, how can we expect the same from the small private initiatives to do that extra bit from their pockets?

This precisely means, unless Education department comes up with some financial & Technical support to make the infrastructure accessible, majority of private schools cannot implement their directive. This is a fact which even the department knows. That is why this lip service has been done by merely issuing a directive without doing proper feasibility study before planning. The best answer to this would be creation of a fund by which schools are supported both financially and technically to ensure that the schools are friendlier to children with diversity.

Therefore, the right approach should be that either Education department gives the required support to the schools that do not have sufficient means to implement the access mandate or withdraws such a directive which cannot be implemented in most of the private schools. Passing the buck will not ensure the rights of free & compulsory education for children with disabilities in private schools but will only add to the list of defaulters. 

Its better the Directorate of Education rectifies the biggest mistake of their planning if they really want to ensure every school accessible; else this will remain a utopia - both for them as well as to the children with disabilities intending to study in these private schools.

Regards
Subhash Chandra Vashishth
   


Delhi schools told to make premises more disabled-friendly, activists unimpressed
(Click here to read the news from source


Fri, Aug 13 06:00 AM
If all goes according to plan and Delhi schools pay heed to orders of the Directorate of Education (DoE), schools across the Capital may soon be disabled friendly.

The DoE has directed all recognised unaided schools to remove all architectural barriers that pose a hindrance to movement of the disabled from the school premises. It, however, has not set a timeframe or deadline, raising concerns that this is "just another cosmetic measure".

The directive to schools comes in the wake of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act which has provisions for the children with disabilities. The DoE has asked schools to remove any architectural barriers "to facilitate the movement of disabled (students or staff) persons".

"This was necessary under the provisions of the Persons with Disability Act, 1995," said an Education department official.

The department has also asked the schools to make provisions for ramps and modified toilets in their school premises. It has, in fact, written to all Deputy Directors of Education (DDEs) that "these two points may be included in the pro forma for seeking recognition from the department and also in the pro forma of inspection of schools".

Javed Abidi, Director National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), said, "I know they have issued a directive to schools. Of course it is too little, too late. But the question is 'are they serious?'"

For affiliation to the Central Board of School Education (CBSE), one of the prerequisites is that the school should be disabled friendly.

But Abidi points out, "They should have given a reasonable timeframe to schools so that they can build ramps or modify toilets. This is all cosmetic. They should tell schools that they would be derecognised if they don't fall in line. I urge them to crack the whip." He says the Supreme Court is monitoring these cases.

Other experts too, were sceptical. Ashok Agarwal, lawyer and activist with Social Jurist, said, "This is just a PR activity. They are not serious." D K Bedi, principal of Apeejay School, Pitampura, said, "This is a welcome step."

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