Volume 2 Issue 16 - August 15, 2004

72 days of dharna; Government yet to take action

DNIS News Network - It has been almost three months since the parents of children with mental disabilities began their protest against the exclusion of any allowances for the mentally disabled students in the state budget, writes Anu Bhambhani.

Picture of parents of children with mental retardation on a dharna.

Ignoring the scorching heat and excessive rains, these parents have been protesting since May 25 to demand that their wards be educated in regular schools along with non-disabled children.

The state budget presented in July by the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia makes provisions for opening up of special schools for hearing, speech and visually impaired. However, nothing has been mentioned about children with mental disability.

Says Ravi Hooja, of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL): "It is the central government that provides financial assistance for the Integrated Education Plan. There are around 3,73,000 children with learning and intellectual disabilities in the state of Rajasthan in the school-going age of 6 to 14 years, yet the state budget has excluded children with mental disabilities."

It is important for children with mental disabilities to get special care in the preparatory years of their lives. However, the fullest development of such children is not possible without their inclusion into mainstream schools. After all, it is only when they interact with other non-disabled children of their own age group that a complete development of their personality is possible. In this regard Hemant Goyal, parent of a child with mental disability says, "We want the government to open up special schools for our wards as the private institutes cannot be afforded by everyone. And then, at a later stage they can be put into inclusive settings."

Another group within this union is that of professionally qualified special educators. Mahendra Sharma, a qualified unemployed special educator, says, "It is mandatory for a special educator to possess a certificate for the same from the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) to be able to teach children with disabilities. However, despite the presence of around 250 qualified special educators in the state those employed have little or no knowledge of the field and fail to understand the needs of a disabled child."

In a decision, on a petition filed against the Department of Education, Government of Rajasthan, the High Court has directed the state government to "take steps to impart requisite training to the teachers for imparting special education to the children with disabilities and to appoint them with a view to promote the integration of students with disabilities" in regular schools.

The Government was told to file a report by August 5, 2004, but the association is determined to continue its dharna till it gets a concrete assurance from the government.

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