Volume 9 Issue 5 - May 15, 2012

Sibal delivers another blow to children with disabilities, sector to blame?

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: The division within the disability sector ensured that the future of millions of children with disabilities is put in jeopardy. A ‘select’ group of ‘disability experts’ met with Kapil Sibal, Minister of Human Resource Development on May 1 to discuss the clause on ‘home-based’ education for children with severe and multiple disabilities under the Amendments to the Right to Education Act, days after it was passed by the Rajya Sabha. This clause makes ‘home-based’ education a statutory option for children with severe and multiple disabilities. The Amendments were passed by the Lok Sabha on May 9.

The carefully assembled group was clearly tilted towards those who supported ‘home-based’ education. It seemed to be an obvious attempt by the Minister to play up the division within the sector to his advantage.

Dr. Sudha Kaul, Chairperson of Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy; Poonam Natarajan, Chairperson, National Trust; G. Syamala, Executive Director, Action for Abilities Development and Inclusion (A.A.D.I.); Radhika Alkazi, Founder and Director of Aarth-Astha; Rajul Padmanabhan, Director, Vidyasagar; and Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder, A.D.A.P.T., were present at the meeting, among others. Pankaj Joshi, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (M.S.J.E.) was also present.

K. Ramakrishna of the National Association of the Blind was the only person with disability in the meeting and he vehemently opposed inclusive education for children with severe and multiple disabilities, saying for such children, ‘home-based’ education should not be an option but a must.

Other than the four known advocates of inclusive education, the rest ‘representing’ people with disabilities felt that the option of ‘home-based’ education is a necessary requirement.

Questions that the 100 million people with disabilities now need to ask are:

  1. Why was the disability sector caught napping again?
  2. After ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (C.R.P.D.), why did non-disabled ‘representatives’ of people with disabilities get to take a regressive decision that will potentially condemn children with severe and multiple disabilities to house arrest and bad quality education?

Interestingly, one of the delegates who has made a career out of ‘developing’ inclusive education in the country and getting various awards for the same, had a one on one meeting with Kapil Sibal on the issue. The outcomes of the same are not known. But coincidentally, a decision to form a task force to come out with guidelines to ensure that ‘home-based’ education is not discriminatory was made public shortly after. It is anybody’s guess as to who Sibal will decide to put on this task force now!

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