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A decade on, IEDC resting on enrolment laurels

DNIS News Network - The Integrated Education for Disabled Children (IEDC) project is now drifting for want of adequate resources and expertise.

Picture of an inclusive classroom

Manav, a Std IV student in Vadodara, still cannot identify a single letter of the alphabet. After he started attending a few sessions at a special school, his parents discovered that Manav was a bright child, but faced learning difficulties owing to continuous neglect at school.

To integrate physically and mentally disabled children like Manav into the mainstream, the Integrated Education for Disabled Children (IEDC) project was launched across the State. The project saw enrolment grow 17 times over the last five years. However, the achievement stops at just that, as the project is now drifting for want of adequate resources and expertise.

“We have about eight project centres catering to 50-odd Vadodara Municipal Corporation schools, while 40 children with mild retardation and orthopaedic disability have been referred to mainstream schools in the city. However, owing to a cut in grant, we are now planning to rope in NGOs which have both resources and expertise to cater to the needs of special children,” says Kavita Desai, Project Officer of IEDC, Vadodara.

In Vadodara, only eight out of 122 municipal schools have project centres for special education and training. After more than a decade, the IEDC project has only a handful of special educators. “The project has trained about 10 teachers as special educators, of which many have retired. The actual number of trained teachers is about five.”

The declaration of the National Policy on Education in 1986, Rehabilitation Council of India Act (1992) and Persons with Disabilities Act (1995), reflect on the government’s commitment to integrate persons with disability into the mainstream. But most of these remain only on paper, say experts.

“We need a uniform policy on inclusive education. Most schools avoid inclusive education citing shortage of special educators and infrastructure deficiencies. As a policy, we need to compel schools to incorporate basic infrastructure modification and curriculum changes to suit the needs of special children,” says Shruti Bhargav, a researcher on inclusive education.

“In Vadodara, only two private English medium schools are open to inclusive education, while no Gujarati medium school has introduced IEDC. Unless Gujarati schools take interest in inclusive education, we cannot expect encouraging results,” reasons Bhargav.

Prabha Mehta, Executive Director of Disha, a centre for people with disabilities, says, “Inclusive education needs an elaborate set-up, hence sharing of resources becomes inevitable. While integrating special children into the mainstream, we must also focus on their Individual Education Plan (IEP). We are planning to extend our screening and counselling services to government schools to enable early intervention, which can prevent children from dropping out.”