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Kerala parents support group petitions CBSE on poor state of inclusion in schools

TogetherWeCan, a prominent parents support group in Kerala recently sent a petition to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) highlighting the plight of students with disabilities in schools and the need for an inclusive educational environment. Both CBSE and state government run schools in Kerala have not rightly implemented the RPWD Act, 2016 which is clear violation of laws. This is our focus on #StoryOfTheWeek.

Over the years, parents and many organisations have stepped forward to highlight discrimination faced by children with disabilities. When it comes to creating an inclusive environment, both central and state-run schools cross India have a long way to go.

TogetherWeCan, a prominent parents support group in Kerala, has petitioned the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) highlighting the plight of students with disabilities in schools. They have pointed out why speedy action must be taken so that children with disabilities can pursue their education without any hassles.

The petition states that lack of an inclusive environment in schools is clearly a violation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD). Unfortunately, most of the schools are also unaware on how to take up the situation wisely or create an inclusive environment. In turn, the child faces regular harassment and discrimination by both teachers and peers.

Seema Lal, Co-founder, TogetherWeCan says that unless CBSE steps up with appropriate actions, both schools and parents will be searching in the dark.

If inclusive education has to be a reality, CBSE must play a supportive role and encourage schools availing exam accommodations for their students. Assessment can be done by an authority as mentioned in the RPWD Act, 2016. But schools need more clarity on formats for assessment. The whole process must be completed before students start school in June. Or else, it becomes an anxious wait for both parents and school authorities contemplating on whether CBSE is going to approve.- Seema Lal, Co-founder, TogetherWeCan.

The petition highlights how children with disabilities struggle to cope up with academics. Most of them with learning disabilities are detained in class 8 and made ineligible to write their class 10 board exams. School authorities point out that if the child gets detained in the board exams, it creates a black mark to their records.

The petition aims to address problems all this. The child must be able to identify subjects that they can excel in, they must be provided opportunity to write examinations at two different times in a year, Alternate Augmentative Communication methods including typing of computer must be provided and technological support must be given.

"It is high time that such a situation is rectified at the earliest. Children with disabilities must be given opportunities along with their peers. School authorities must also step in to identify subjects that they can excel in so that they do not have to struggle with academics. Otherwise, it is a violation of the law in which strict action can be taken against schools. We need a solution for this at the earliest", says Naseer Chaliyam, a member of the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Groups like TogetherWeCan have been highlighting the many difficulties faced by children with disabilities in state and central run schools since the past many years. But nothing substantial has been done. Though some schools are doing their best, there is still a long way to go.

Lakshmi Ramachandran, a mentor at a prominent CBSE school in Kochi says, "As far as our school is concerned, we have been practicing inclusion. We do not want to label a child disabled, and we train other kids also the same way. Both children with and without disabilities participate together in all our activities". But she acknowledges that this is an exception. "For sure, there is still a long way to go. There are many schools that still do not practice inclusion. We are glad that we have started it".

ALSO READ: Kerala Police act swiftly, arrest man accused of sexually abusing child with autism

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