Volume 9 Issue 4 - May 01, 2012

Amendments to R.T.E. passed by Rajya Sabha; mixed bag for disability sector

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: Amendments to the Right to Education Act that makes education a fundamental right for children between the ages of 6-14, were passed by the Rajya Sabha on April 24. Among other things, the Amendments included children with disabilities in the disadvantaged category making them eligible to be considered under the 25 percent reservation and widened the definition of disability. However, there is very little to cheer about as the Amendments have also given a choice of ‘home-based’ education for parents of children with severe disabilities. This clause is being seen as handing a perfect excuse to schools to turn away children with disabilities.

Radhika Alkazi, Founder and Director of Aarth-Astha said that choices cannot be exercised by parents who are helpless. “This Amendment will have huge repercussions on children with disabilities. Schools will happily push these children out of schools. Children will be stuck at home. On what basis has the Government added this flexibility where a fundamental right is being violated? This is not path breaking but sad” she said.

She is not the only one who has expressed such strong views. A newspaper report quoted Shireen Vakil Miller, Director, Advocacy and Policy, Save the Children saying, “Unless children with disabilities explore the world with non-disabled children, they will not be motivated to compete with them or gather strength to overcome their disabilities.”

“Children learn better with their peers. The Government should ensure that there are enough special educators in schools to take care of children with disabilities. It is also necessary to ensure that there is disabled-friendly infrastructure in schools,” she said.

Experts believe that schools will start terming many disabilities as severe in the absence of a proper definition. “Home-based education, followed in some schools at present, is supposed to act as a bridging gap. But it has failed because children get to study only twice a week and a child is deprived of studying with mates who attend school regularly,” the report quoted Anjela Taneja, Education Co-ordinator, Oxfam India.

In the March 15, 2012 issue, D.N.I.S. had carried interviews of noted experts on the issue of ‘home-based’ education. Poonam Natarajan, Chairperson, National Trust, had said that, “Home-based education will certainly take us a few steps backward.”

Readers would remember that Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.) and its allies had put up a huge opposition in 2009 when the R.T.E. Act was passed by the Parliament without including children with disabilities. The protest finally led to the assurance from Kapil Sibal, following an intervention by the Prime Minister, that Amendments would be brought in to address this oversight.

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