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Chandigarh takes baby steps towards inclusion with new education policy

When it comes to inclusion, our schools and colleges have still a long way to go. But state and union territory governments are taking baby steps towards inclusion. Like the Chandigarh administration is gearing up to do.

Chandigarh has framed a set of policies to provide education for children with all kinds of disabilities. These have been submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Courts and has been given a thumbs up by disability rights groups.

The policy focuses on imparting education, mapping of children with disabilities, providing them with certifications, arranging funds for admission and education and training teachers to handle children with disabilities. The prime focus will be on admitting disabled children without any discrimination in normal schools. Authorities believe that these policies are going to enhance the quality of children's lives in numerous ways.

Will they translate into ground reality? That's the question experts like Dr Neelam Sodhi, who is the co-founder of NGO Ashirwad in Ludhiana are asking. Sodhi says such policies have been framed before, but failed to be implemented.

If the law thinks that this can be implemented successfully, then that would be great. Even though we all talk about inclusion in schools and even society, it never really happens. It just does not look like a reality. We need to also have stringent laws that protect our children with disabilities. In fact, having special educators in normal schools will be a great way to start off with. Children with special needs must get into mainstream society and start to live independently. -Dr Neelam Sodhi, Co-Founder, NGO Ashirwad

The RPWD Act, 2016 clearly mentions that children with disabilities must not be discriminated when it comes to providing them with education. Recently, the Punjab State Education Department sent out a circular to all schools reiterating this, saying all children with disabilities must be enrolled without discrimination. But this is yet to be implemented.

"To ensure implementation, government bodies in conjunction with school authorities must device various check lists that can help teaching, support and ancillary staffs. Parents must also be made to understand their child's disability in a better way. Specific methodologies and strategies can be used for learning. Community involvement is a must when it comes to awareness and acceptance', says Nandita Paul Saxena, a special educator.

People with disabilities can contribute significantly towards development of the society. What they need is support at this early stage that can give them the skills to do so in the future.

ALSO READ: Children with disabilities in Delhi schools battle apathy, ignorance & poor infrastructure

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