Amidst all the hullabaloo of the new US President Donald Trump and the newly printed Indian currencies, let’s change the theme to reflecting back on the Children’s Day celebration.
Undoubtedly, this world is full of miracles and children are one of them. But to understand that every person is equipped with a different and special quality is a backdrop for many. And also for parents having a child born differently abled is a life-long adjustment. Families must learn to accept and hopefully celebrate children who are not what they originally had in mind. Expectant parents usually dream that their new baby will have some of their features and grow up to share their values and interests. But what happens when the baby is very different from them because of a disability? How do the parents cope with raising this child, develop a bond of love and appreciate the child with his/her own individual characteristics? The answer is simple: to consider them as one of us and attend their special needs normally. Well, symphonies of Beethoven soothe our ears when he himself had hearing impairment as a birth defect. Works of the dyslexic child Albert Einstein rule our textbooks now. Disabled ones are differently abled.
Education for the differently abled children has been a story in highlights for the past decades. India has 20.42 lakh disabledchildren aged between 0 and 6 years. Around 71% of them – 14.52 lakh children – are in rural areas. There are 5.9 lakh disabled children in cities. Of them, 11.04 lakh are male and 9.38 lakh are female children. Among them, 1.49 lakh children have multiple disabilities. A report said that while India has made significant improvement in primary education enrolment, the figures for children with disabilities are staggering. Out of 2.9 million children with disabilities in India, 990,000 children aged 6 to 14 years (34 %) are out of school. The percentages are even higher among children with intellectual disabilities (48%), speech impairments (36%) and multiple disabilities (59%). These numbers portray the ignorance of the fact that disabled children are differently abled, not invalid or non-existent. They do need a label; they just need an individual identity and a secured place out of all dogma and denigration about their abilities. Education becomes a means to break open all the shackles of disabilities.
The government has initiated the National Policy on Education (NPE) – 1986: The NPE brought the fundamental issue of equality centre stage. Section 4.9 of the policy clearly focuses on the needs of the children with disabilities. “The objective should be to integrate the physically and mentally handicapped with the general community as equal partners, to prepare them for normal growth and to enable them to face life with courage and confidence. The following measures will be taken in this regard:
- Wherever it is feasible, the education of children with motor handicaps and other mild handicaps will be common with that of others;
- Special schools with hostels will be provided, as far as possible at district headquarters, for the severely handicapped children;
- Adequate arrangements will be made to give vocational training to the disabled;
- Teachers’ training programmes will be reoriented, in particular for teachers of primary classes, to deal with the special difficulties of the handicapped children and
- Voluntary effort for the education of the disabled will be encouraged in every possible manner”.
People, no amount of acts are effective unless we do initiate the awareness that differently abled ones are one among us.
By Radhika Boruah