Milords, Why Take Disabled Children Out Of The Equation?
The Supreme Court’s suggestion to segregate and educate people with ‘special needs’ in ‘special schools’ needs some serious re-thinking. While I certainly do not want to be accused of cutting off the nose to spite the face, I request the SC judges to reconsider the grounds for this suggestion, as well as take note of the more pressing concerns regarding children or people with disability.
The suggestion to school children with disabilities separately in special schools draws a stark and frightening parallel with segregated schooling (brilliantly illustrated by Norman Rockwell’s rendering of Ruby Bridges being escorted to a `white school’). As has been observed by Nipun, the proposed `Edpartheid’ would appear to contravene the Rights to Persons with Disabilities Bill of 2016. In fact, it flies in the face of each of the three paragraphs of Article 7 of the UNCRPD on children with disabilities. Not to forget that a natural extension of this theme would envision the medium of education in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal as Kannada, Tamil, and Bengali respectively, thereby rendering inter-state movement for work or study untenable.
No one benefits from segregation!
I believe that no student without or with disabilities could benefit from segregated schooling. For the former, living and growing up only with children with a disability (often the same as him or hers) will shield but not prepare her for the insensitivity or the barrier filled with harsh realities of the external world; and she is certainly being done no favour when his/her right to choose where to study is denied to him/her.
For the latter – students without disabilities, a suggestion like this takes away a thousand possibilities in learning. My friendship with Venky, a person with a visual disability began nearly fifty years ago in our first year of college. Of all the things that friendship taught me there was one that I now deem most important – it was the rule that anything removed must be put back in the same place.
Forty years later, after I’d grown from a strapping teenager to an aging victim of multiple sclerosis who needs a wheelchair to move around, this `everything in its place rule’ ensures that my office is negotiable in my wheelchair!
What is the hurry to mandate more new legal provisions that curtail freedom of thought by promoting fragmentation and exclusion, rather than relish the inclusivity that is born of recognising and reaping the benefits of diversity?
Is it not more worthwhile to pull up our society that has an intrinsically law-breaking mentality and ensuring that existing laws are adhered to?
Wouldn’t it be far more productive to make it a stringently punishable offence to run schools/educational institutions/buildings which are not barrier-free or which do not maintain clean and usable toilets?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to ensure that the advances and conveniences of the revolution in information technology available to all people, irrespective of whether they have visual, oral, aural, cognitive, locomotor or any disability?
Shouldn’t the issues raised above be resolved first before this unnecessary new rule? Just about the one attraction for a child going to an Indian school today is the friends and camaraderie she can look forward to making, and our SC is now trying to limit the schooling options for children.
Here are some examples of ways that our courts can really meaningfully intervene in our education system:
- Give more teeth to your RTI: you just have to look at the completely uninformative answers routinely given to carefully prepared questions by Abha Khetarpal. To the question `how many children with disability are there in your school?” many of our alleged educators say N/A. In fact, one school answered each of a group of six similar and explicit questions with N/A. Dr. Satendra Singh has filed several RTIs which are shamelessly answered with None for almost every question! Surely such callousness towards an RTI query should be slapped with contempt of court!
- Specify a date by which all buildings used by the public should be rendered accessible, and levy hefty penalties on buildings which do not conform to the requirements of the RPWD Act 2016.
- Slap stiff fines on institutions – even such holy cows as the Vigyan Bhavan or the Indian Institute of Science or the IITs – which do not render themselves accessible to invited awardees of eminent prizes or their own students, faculty and visitors.
Please let us get our priorities straight.
V.S. SUNDER, mathematics Professor and Bhatnagar Awardee can lay claim to have enabled the only Indian scientific research institution which is totally accessible‘
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