Kerala’s work from home initiative for parents of disabled kids gets mixed response
The Kerala government is all set to allow parents of disabled children to take leaves or work from home till special schools in the state re-open. With online classes beginning for disabled children, most of them find it difficult to attend it without support of parents. This latest initiative from the state government is a much needed one, but has received mixed reactions from parents and support groups. According to them, there are many who works with private companies and other sectors. There is an urgent need to look at the larger frame to help disabled students and parents.
Online classes for children from across Kerala began on 1 June. But for children with disabilities, most schools are yet to begin classes. ‘Samagra Shiksha Kerala’ had started the ‘White Board’ online classes for over 87,000 disabled students on 15 June, but is yet to fully take off. One of the biggest challenges to start online classes for disabled students are lack of presence of parents while taking classes. The Kerala government is now all set to provide exclusive facilities for working parents of disabled children. They take either take leaves till schools open or will be given option to ‘Work From Home’ (WFH). This latest initiative has been welcomed by parents. But they also point out that there is much more to be considered and looked into at this point.
A much needed initiative
Due to the lockdown, schools for disabled children have been shut down from last March across Kerala. Teachers are unable to go ahead with lessons since parents are not always around the child. Children with physical and other intellectual disabilities need the support and help of their parents to attend online classes. Most of them are unaware on how to use a mobile or laptop.
There are over 327 unaided schools in the state. Most of them have not yet begun classes. Last Thursday, a meeting was held with officials who have given a go ahead for online classes without delay. In the wake of this, parents have also demanded that they must reach out to their children during this time. The latest initiative supports parents of children with disabilities who work for the state government sector only. With an uncertainity prevailing on when schools will re-open, such measures are inevitable.
Reportedly, most parents are taking leaves to stay with their children who are unable to manage on their own. This clearly affects their work. The government is most probably going to allow either parents, in certain circumstances, or one parent to stay at home and work. Parents demand that this initiative must be implemented in prvivate and other sectors too.
Experts & parents speak
Seema Lal, Co-founder, TogetherWeCan, a parent support group from Kerala states that struggles of parents with disabled kids have always been much more.
“This is indeed a great relief for those parents who fit into this category. But doesn’t this leave out those working on daily wages along with children and parents who are struggling to comprehend anything via online? Moreover, parents who work have always found it a struggle to support their children who need it extensively. It applies to those parents whose children goes to special schools or not”, says Seema.
Suchita Narayan, who is a parent of a disabled person is someone who supports other parents and is actively involved in the disability space. “To begin with, this is a great initiative. But there is a bigger picture that needs to be looked into. What about those who work in private sectors? What about doctors, health care workers, nurses and even cleaners who work for government but has to be in the forefront now? This latest initiative only gives relief to a small group”, she says.
Kanni, who has a son with autism, says that the initiative is a good start. Kanni is a working mother too.
“Children are alone at home most of the days now. Without support of mother or one of the parent, they cannot engage in any activities including attending online classes. Some kids are hyperactive and need the mother to be with them. Most of the places and even therapy centers are not open now due to lockdown which adds to the woes of the child and parent. So any initiative taken to ensure that parents can stay at home is indeed welcome”, she says.
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