Published: 08th August 2017
Telangana's education programme for the disabled struggles to survive outside of paper
As per the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, 2 special educators have to be recruited in each mandal or block, however, 320 posts remain vacant in 2017
With only 918 special educators catering to 68,000 children with special needs in Telangana’s Inclusive Education Resource Centres (IERDs), commonly know as Bhavitha centres, the whole system of inclusive education and its achievement in the state as provided for under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) seems to be functioning only on paper.
While SSA mandates two special educators per mandal, there are no posts for special educators under the school Education Department. The state’s 459 Bhavitha Centres have been allocated two special educators each. While the Central Government has been pushing for inclusive education with the special educator and student ratio fixed at 1:5, at these special schools, the ratio is 1: 73.
However, an SSA official on the condition of anonymity said that, officially, for every 7-10 children in these special schools, there should be one special educator. While the government estimates the number of Children With Special Needs (CwSN) to be 61,000, Special Educators Forum India (SEFI), which works under the SSA Scheme pegs it at 68,000. Of these 61,558 are enrolled in primary and a mere 6,605 in Secondary education.
There is no provision for special educators in normal schools. But to promote inclusive education we have set up these centres that cater to 7,611 children with mental retardation and 1,400 who have physical disabilities and can not commute to schools
A Bhaskar Rao, Additional State Project Officer, SSA
“There is no provision for special educators in normal schools. But to promote inclusive education we have set up these centres that cater to 7,611 children with mental retardation and 1,400 who have physical disabilities and can not commute to schools. Such students are home schooled, once weekly, while their parent are also taught techniques to make them learn,” explained A Bhaskar Rao, Additional State Project Officer under SSA.
Meanwhile, special educators have said that the learning centres are not enough. The SEFI has written to the center and the state government demanding recruitment of specialised teachers on a regular basis in all schools. “The Centre has written back saying that recruitment of such teachers is to be done at the state level and if state government sends a proposal, they will approve. States, on the other hand, have been functioning through contractual manpower. Regular teachers have limited understanding of the requirements of CwSN. Already under pressure from handling other children and large classes, they feel forced to teach such children. They hardly pay attention to these children,” said Kalpagiri Sreenu, convenor of SEFI.
He added that Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) further forced them to promote such children to higher classes, thus making inclusive education nothing but show pieces to yield funds. So far, Delhi is the only state to have inducted special educators after being rapped by the Delhi High Court.
It was not like the school didn’t have the infrastructure or special educators. They just didn’t want to put in the effort that an autistic child needs
Divya Sharma, Parent
M Srinivasulu president of Network of Persons with Disabilities Organisation states that a lack of specialised educators coupled with meager salaries, is crippling the scope for education for these children. “The contractual teachers are recruited for 8-9 months, during which, they pay more attention in preparing to clear examinations than in teaching these children. And this is not just the case with government schools. Private schools also overlook the need to hire special educators,” he said.
It may be noted that all Kendriya Vidyalaya and Novodayas in the country and KGBVs in the state are functioning without recruiting any special educators. The Central Board of Secondary Education too had issued a circular in June directing all its affiliated schools to recruit special educators. According to SEFI, this too continues to be just on paper.
As per the Rehabilitation Council of India, 4000 special teachers are registered in Telangana and 1,25,000 special educators are registered in the country
Limited or no availability of special teachers in government schools and a lack of willingness on the part of private schools to enroll special children have forced them to the fringe of the society and made a mockery of inclusive education. Left with no option, parents admit such children in special schools. Divya Sharma has in the last one-and-a-half years approached nearly 17 schools to get her six-year-old autistic son admitted, only to be turned away. One of the schools that eventually admitted her son, within months asked her to pull him out of the school.
“It was not like the school didn’t have the infrastructure or special educators. They just didn’t want to put in the effort that an autistic child needs,” said Divya, who moved from Mumbai to Hyderabad. Her son is now a student at Sparsh Special School, Kukatpally where he is taught letters besides being trained in speech, behavioural and occupational therapy.