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Paying lip service to the disabled

On his recent visit to the state, Minister of State for Social Justice, Ramdas Bandhu Athawale asked the State Government to set up schools for the disabled and come up with a robust law for the protecting the elderly. There are only 12 private schools for over 44 thousand disabled children in Meghalaya. The ratio of such special schools to students is 1:3666. This shows that a huge section of the disabled are out of school and left to fend for themselves. A reasonable teacher – student ratio is 1: 13-17 for the teacher to be able to make an impact and for the student to benefit from the special education provided

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (Department of Secondary and Higher Education) has been implementing a scheme of ‘Integrated Education for the Disabled Children’ (IEDC) in formal schools since 1982. The objective of the scheme is to provide educational opportunities for the disabled children in normal schools so as to facilitate their retention in the school system. Disabled children who are placed in special schools should be considered for integration into common schools once they acquire the communication and daily living skills at a functional level.

Children with various disabilities should be integrated in formal and non-formal school systems. A three- member assessment team comprising of a doctor, a psychologist and a special educator is formed to assess whether a child can be enrolled directly into a normal school or should receive preparation in a special school/ or a special preparatory class in Early Childhood Education Centre(ECCE) specially equipped for this purpose. Under the IEDC scheme, resources and itinerant teachers are provided. Children are also given certain incentives like book allowance, equipment allowance, transport-allowance etc.

But all of the above are neatly written policies that are implemented in the breach. The Central and State Government has paid scant attention to the educational needs of the disabled in Meghalaya, thereby causing frustration and a sense of hopelessness in those who have strived to set up those special schools because of a sense of personal commitment. There is also a social apathy hence the societal push to empower those who run such schools are negligible. How can society ignore its own? It’s time for governments and civil society to pay attention to this crucial issue. It should be part of the election agenda for 2018.   

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