ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Enabling the Disabled

The education of disabled children must not be an afterthought for the government.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (hereinafter, the RTE Act) which promises free and com pulsory education to all children between 6 and 14 years and binds public and private schools to reserve 25% of seats for children from disadvantaged sections was hailed as “a landmark” when it was passed in August. But it excluded children below six years from their fundamental right to pre-primary education. It also misrepresented the notion of a neighbourhood school, which will, in effect, ensure that the poor will continue to be relegated to sub-standard schools, more so because the Act’s schedule of norms and standards will not lead to any substantial improvement in such schools. The middle class and the rich will of course continue to go to the Kendriya/ Navodaya Vidyalayas or private schools, and the pace of commercialisation will get a boost through public-private partnerships. The elite who govern and rule this country have succeeded in banishing the very idea of a public-funded common school system based on neighbourhood schools all the way from the pre-primary stage to class XII. But, in the absence of a mass movement to demand this right, what is the point of making such a critique – it will only fall on deaf ears. The disability rights groups have however managed to get the prime minister’s office (PMO) to ensure that the Act is amended. They have pointed out that, as it stands now, the law does not take into account the concerns of nearly 30 million children in this age group.

Though disability rights groups had brought the shortcoming to the notice of the human resources minister, he had assured them that their representation would be taken into account when the rules under the law were being framed and pleaded that too much time would be lost if the bill was not passed at that juncture. The minister was accused of rushing to meet the 100 days “frenzy” of the United Progressive Alliance-II government’s deadline to deliver on its electoral promises. It was later realised that merely adding enabling provisions under the rules would not address the issues faced by disabled students.

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