Education September 4, 2020
No relief for disabled children appearing for class 10 board exams privately in TN
The Madras High Court’s response to a petition challenging the Tamil Nadu education board’s move to go ahead with board exams for children with disabilities appearing privately has disappointed parents and disability rights groups. The petition was filed by a group of parents from Tiruchirappalli asking that the board exams not be held given the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Joseph Sahayarajan can barely contain his tears. He was among the co-petitioners from Tiruchirappalli to approach the Madras High Court challenging the Tamil Nadu state education board’s decision to hold board exams for students appearing privately from 21 September.
The Madras High Court order, however, is a huge disappointment. The order held that all children with disability cannot be treated alike and that the state government would have to frame individual solutions. It has ordered the state government to compile a list of candidates with disabilities appearing for the board exams, ensure availability of scribes, and to ensure the children and scribes are tested for Covid-19 two days before the start of the exams.
State government move insensitive, discriminatory
In the case of children who cannot wear masks due to their disability, the court has ordered the state to find alternatives.
Joseph’s son Emmanuel Jacob has mild autism and mental retardation (MR). He finds it uncomfortable to wear face masks for long periods and Joseph is worried about the health risk at a time when the coronavirus infection is still raging.
I am bitterly disappointed with the Madras High Court order. How can they expect our children to take the exams at a time like this? We are so scared and worried. How can they expect them to go for a Covid test two days before the exams? I am not sure Emmanuel will be able to take the exam, but this is a question of his future. How can the court dispose the matter off in just one day? – Joseph Sahayarajan, Parent to child with disability
After initially announcing that board exams for all students would be cancelled keeping in mind the pandemic, state education authorities decided to go ahead with the exams for private students, a move that affects disabled children the most.
Plans to appeal
“What about children who can’t do the tests like children with autism?”, asks Rajiv Rajan, Co-founder, Ekta Foundation, which supported the petitioner with legal aid. “Who pays for the Covid-19 test? What about students with speech difficulty who are using scribes? Will the scribes appointed by the government be able to understand what the students are dictating?”
There are plans to challenge this order by sending individual representations with details of every child, description of disability, the issues they face as well as the risks in case they were to write the exam.
Disability rights activist Vaishnavi Jayakumar says this shows the lack of awareness and sensitivity towards the diverse needs of people with disabilities.
“Compared to the CBSE, the Tamil Nadu exam accommodation request process lacks a streamlined system, especially for students who are not blind but have other disabilities. This ‘scribes equal blind students’ only fallacy has led to much unnecessary running around and stress to families of students. Now both the disabled student, who is often immunocompromised, and primary caregiver will be needlessly exposed to Covid risk with accompanying burden of foreseeable health and caring complications”.
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