Education September 16, 2020
Petition to TN Disability Commissioner highlights risks & injustices of Class 10 board exams
Prominent disability rights groups in Tamil Nadu, schools for children with disabilities, parents and disabled children have come together to protest against the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to conduct Class 10 board exams for disabled children in private schools. A petition has also been sent to the Disability Commissioner urging that the exams be cancelled. That’s the focus on #StoryOfTheWeek.
“Non-cooperation movement kicked off by Vignesh refusing the pre-board COVID test coz unacceptable risk. #DisabledLivesMatter.”
With less than a week left for class 10 board exams for disabled private students to begin, disability rights groups Ekta Foundation and Disability Rights Alliance India, principals, students, children with disabilities and their parents in Tiruchirappalli, Madurai and Coimbatore are rallying together.
They have come together under the umbrella group The Disabled Lives Matter community to petition the State Disability Commissioner in Tamil Nadu to call off the class 10 board exams for private students.
The exams, set to begin on 21 September, mainly affect students with disabilities.
The petition highlights the injustice of conducting these exams for disabled children when all other children have been exempted. This when people with disabilities are especially vulnerable to the virus.
It is puzzling that a vulnerable population is being compelled to write a crucial examination during a pandemic on one hand while the same Government has proactively acknowledged the heightened risk of Covid to disabled Indians by exempting disabled government employees from reporting for work. Equally puzzling is the Government’s insistence on in-person exams when many children appearing as private candidates are from special schools where their attendance records and internal evaluation marks can be used to pass them like other school students. – The Disabled Lives Matter community
Highlights of petition
The petition outlines in detail the many risks candidates with disabilities face in taking the exams.
- Residential special school students will have to travel long distances as they have been sent back home due to the pandemic.
- Wheelchair accessibility of allotted exam centres, especially the toilets, is questionable given the length of exam and compensatory time.
- The accommodations made by the Education Department are limited to general ones for disabled candidates and do not consider specific issues faced. Like students with cerebral palsy or those on the autism spectrum often require a scribe cum support person who can comprehend speech differences.
- ’Wearing masks is difficult for special children”, says the petition as they are not used to it. And given that they have been indoors during the pandemic, they are not equipped with the challenge of wearing and maintaining protective gear all the time.
The petition asks that private candidates with disabilities in Class X be assessed on the basis of available records in schools or through any other mechanism barring board exams.
Many students and parents are posting videos with similar appeals.
Emmanuel Jacob, a 15-year-old student from Tiruchirappalli, posted this moving appeal in Tamil. “You have declared all other candidates for the class 10 board exam as all pass. Please declare us as all pass as well. We are all upset and scared. When everyone else can be passed, why not us. We are scared of covering our noses and mouths and appearing for the exams. We appeal to you to declare us as all pass too”.
Emmanuel, who has mild autism and mental retardation (MR), studied in a regular school until class 8. After that, his parents had to enrol him in a school for children with disabilities. None of the mainstream schools in Tiruchirappalli were willing to teach him given his disability.
Move discriminates against disabled children
“Regular schools turn our children away because they are disabled”, points out Emmanuel’s father Joseph Sahayarajan, “forcing us to turn to special schools that are privately run. And now you discriminate against them further by singling out only private students for the board exams. This is injustice”.
The state government’s move affects over 30,000 children in the state. With schools shut since April, all other therapies and support systems offered to children with disabilities have also come to a stop.
“The circumstances are such that it will be extremely hard for them to write the exams”, adds Joseph. “On behalf of all children with disabilities in Tamil Nadu, we are pleading with the authorities to take back this decision and assess our children on the basis of internal tests as is the case with other children”.
YOU CAN READ THE PETITION HERE
Watch in Sign Language
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