Monday, May 9, 2016

RTI reveals Delhi's Schools not compliant to CBSE guidelines on disabled friendliness

This report filed by Mr. Manash Gohain in Times of India Delhi Edition and published on May 08 2016 titled "City schools tough place for disabled" based on over 160 RTI replies received by Ms. Abha Khetrapal of "Cross the Hurdles" reveals how equipped and serious Delhi is when it comes to providing quality education in an inclusive set up for children with disabilities. Here goes the story.

Most Delhi schools are not inclusive, and their differently-abled students are deprived of assistive devices or materials even though the Central Board of Secondary Education has issued guidelines on these. Replies to queries under the Right to Information received from the capital's government, government-aided and private schools reveal that most of the institutions have not carried out audits to establish the levels of the prescribed amenities.

Unfortunately , CBSE, having issued three guidelines over the years, too said in a reply to an RTI query that it had no information on access audits, compliance and action taken in case of non-compliance. The education board first issued guidelines on making school disabled-friendly way back in May 2005. It reissued fresh guidelines in October 2008 and then reiterated these in 2009, making it incumbent on schools to comply with measures suggested in the guidelines.

These included provision of support through accessible educational material and the availability of trained teachers, modification of the existing physical infrastructure and teaching methodologies to meet the needs of all children, including those with special needs, ensuring availability of study material for the disabled and talking text books, reading machines and computers with speech software and the induction of an adequate number of signlanguage interpreters, transcription services and a loop induction system for the hearing-impaired students.

TOI has copies of the 160 RTI replies received by petitioner Abha Khetarpal, President of Cross the Hurdles, an NGO that works with people with physical challenges.Only two of the schools claimed to have carried out the mandated access audit. In a majority of the schools, the queries about study materials, teacher training, infrastructure, access audit report and number of students with disabilities evinced "not applicable" as the response. Just five schools said they had visually-impaired students, and there was no data on students with disabilities like locomotor disability.

According Khetarpal, “The annexure in the 2009 guidelines clearly stated the things that schools were to provide in order to make them inclusive, failing which they would lose their affiliation. CBSE now replies that they do not keep a record of such information.“ The board told Khetarpal that affiliated schools only provide Open Text Based Assessment material in Braille, but this carries only 10% weightage in the final exams and is also meant only for Classes IX and XI. What about 90% of the study material, she asks.How would students with visual impairment cope?

Some private schools refused to divulge the information on the ground that they did not come under the purview of the RTI Act. So, there is no confirmed number on students with disabilities in regular inclusive schools and what they study . Khetarpal says that when asked this, CBSE said it not only didn't have the data, but that it also doesn't monitor compliance of its guidelines.



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