DEPwD directed to frame model guidelines for schools for disabled kids
The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Government of India, has been directed to frame model guidelines for schools that teach disabled children. The State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Delhi government, passed this order when a prominent school for disabled kids was accused of violating Rehabilitation Council of India guidelines.
Section 13 of the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) Act says only a ‘rehabilitation professional with a recognised rehabilitation qualification and enrolled on the RCI register’ can work in any institution. This is necessary for all those teaching children with cerebral palsy, autism and multiple disabilities.
Education of disabled kids – Policy vs Practice
This is poorly implemented as there are not enough rehab professionals. A reality uncovered when a complaint was filed against Sparsh Special School in New Delhi which allegedly had six teachers without the mandated qualification.
The case was heard by T D Dhariyal, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Delhi Government. What became clear was that the absence of comprehensive guidelines for all schools for disabled kids. Most schoolteachers are untrained or have expired RCI certifications. The Commissioner has asked the RCI to put in place “a proper mechanism for filing complaints against untrained persons”.
The hearings also raise a larger question. How practical is the rule given the lack of trained professionals? There are various laws that mandate disabled children be taught in mainstream schools. This would mean that all teachers in mainstream schools should be trained in special education and register with RCI. This is not workable, says the order.
It is neither the intention of the legislation nor is it possible to ensure that every subject teacher who will have to teach children with disabilities along with other children, can be trained as a Special Education Teacher…Every subject teacher need not be an RCI registered Special Education Teacher under the current laws and rules. It is, however, for every teacher to be oriented and trained on handling children with disabilities. – T D Dhariyal, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Government of Delhi
Guidelines on education of disabled kids should be realistic
The order makes it clear that the needs of disabled children should not ignored. But care should be taken “to ensure a reasonable number of RCI approved teachers/professionals teach and provide other appropriate services”.
At present there are no comprehensive guidelines and standards for schools that teach disabled children anywhere in India. Due to this children with disabilities like autism, CP and multiple disabilities do not have access to quality education. Directions have been given to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) to address this. “DEPwD should develop model guidelines for special schools.. and appropriate environment in light of Section 31 of the RPWD Act for guidance of special schools in the country”.
Lack of trained teachers for disabled kids across India
Sarbani Mallick, Founder Director-Managing Trustee, Bubbles Centre for Autism in Bengaluru feels the questions raised are relevant. Sarbani says the guidelines should be re-looked at even for schools that cater to disabled kids.
“These guidelines should not be made mandatory even for special schools given the lack of trained manpower. When there are no manpower available, such rules make no sense”. Sarbani points to her own experiences. “We have been unable to find RCI-registered professionals for our centre. In Karnataka, the Spastics Society of India has a two-year programme but how many people pursue them? Those who do are mostly mothers looking to equip themselves with the skills needed to support their kids. Besides why would anyone give up two years of their life to train in this when the sector pays so poorly?”, she asks.
The government, says Sarbani, must take a holistic view of the situation and impose rules. Something this order will hopefully the pave for.
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