D.N.I.S. News Network- Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (S.S.A.), the project that aims to provide eight years of school education to all children and ultimately pave the way for the Goal of Universal Enrolment by 2010, has now boldly shifted its focus on Inclusive Education with the announcement of a Sub-Mission that will specifically monitor and implement Inclusive Education for disabled children.
This and other similar targets pertaining to education of disabled children, if materialised even to a modest degree, could transform the lives of millions of disabled people by breaking the vicious cycle of marginalisation that plagues about 70 million disabled Indians.
Executive Director of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.), Javed Abidi, had expressed concern during the first meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Mission for S.S.A. in March last year, that only 18.5 lakh disabled children had been identified under the project so far and this is far below the estimates of disability sector. He stressed the need to give adequate focus to interventions for disabled children in every aspect of S.S.A. planning. All construction under S.S.A. should provide for access for the disabled. He felt that a provision should be made for recruitment of special teachers against some of the vacancies for teachers.
It was in this meeting of the Executive Committee that it was decided to constitute six Sub-Missions for S.S.A. at the National level. One of them is the Sub–Mission on “Education of Disadvantaged Groups, Including Girls, SC/ST/Minorities/Urban deprived and Disabled Children”. This Sub–Mission could be constituted only in late December 2005. They are expected to submit their report any time now, for it to be considered in the second meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Mission for S.S.A. This meeting was earlier scheduled for 10 April 2006 but got cancelled off at the very last minute. DNIS is keeping a close eye on the developments on this front.
In terms of tasks for the Sub–Mission, the order lists out the following: (1) suggest models of service delivery on Inclusive Education, which could be adopted by State S.S.A. Mission Societies;(2) assist in providing a resource base on Inclusive Education for states that require such assistance; (3) provide inputs on material available on Inclusive Education, which could be utilized by State S.S.A. Mission Societies; (4) facilitate development of barrier-free access in schools for all kinds of disabled children; (5) identify good practices for documentation and dissemination; and (6) monitor implementation of Inclusive Education in states, in quantitative, qualitative and financial terms.
A specific target for the Sub-Mission for 2005-06 is to review progress of activities of various states for education of disabled children and suggest action for follow up, capacity building and monitoring of progress in identified states.
The short-term targets for Inclusive Education in the said period are: (1) reaching out to 20.14 lakh identified disabled children; (2) sensitisation of 10.6 lakh teachers to the needs of disabled children; (3) provision of barrier-free access in 1.72 lakh schools; and (4) home-based education programme for severely disabled children.
The Sub-Mission’s Task Force could organise separate meetings for specific categories of disadvantaged children. These meetings could also include participation from representatives of the specific categories concerned.
The membership of the Task Force includes a nominee from Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the following four experts on Inclusive Education: Chairperson National Trust, Ruma Banerjee from SEVA in Action, Bangalore, Smriti Swarup of S.N.D.T. University, Mumbai, and a representative of Tamil Nadu Spastics Society. Member Secretary of the Task Force would be Director of Elementary Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The Sub-Mission would review work of each state on the dimensions allocated to it and suggest/facilitate capacity building exercises that may be state-specific or in the nature of cross-state sharing workshops to promote best practices. The Sub-Mission will have to prepare a half-yearly report that would be discussed in the Executive Committee.