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Who has the Right to Education? Disability and Government Schools

According to a UN report, 75% of India’s disabled students never attend a school. A study conducted in rural India showed that this is because teachers don't want to take responsibility for the learning of such children because of concerns about their own preparedness for it and also the ineffective support structures they have. Even at the university level, the situation does not improve. Research shows that university students with disabilities face issues such as infrastructure accessibility, physical access, institutional support networks and issues with the teacher’s attitude towards their learning.  


Even though there is a policy which guarantees education for disabled students, this is not the reality of many of our students. 


The drop out rate of students with disabilities itself is enough to prompt an investigation into this matter but as we move closer to the board examinations for grade 10 and 12, bringing this issue to the limelight also helps explore what resources are available for these students. 


To gain a better understanding of the everyday experience of attending a government school with a disability, I spoke to a student in Pune in grade 9, Anzar Ansari who uses a wheelchair. Anzar is quite happy in his school life and said that “I feel equal to my friends in school.” This he credits largely to the staff in his schools and to his family. 


Yet, even in a school which strives to be inclusive, there are still instances when he feels left behind. 

“Last year, children’s day par upar hall mein movie dikhayi thi toh mein aaya hi nahi.” 

(Last year on Children’s day, a movie was shown in the hall upstairs, so I didn’t come.)  


“Science day pe bhi mein nahi aaya kyonki exhibition upar hall mein hi tha”

(I also didn’t come on Science day because the exhibition was happening upstairs in the hall)


He also revealed that in his last school, the principal had a ramp built so that he could go upstairs to attend his classes. A true example of inclusive education in action! Yet when we compare Anzar’s experience to the data explored, the elephant in the room is obvious.


Anzar’s situation is an exception. He was lucky enough to be placed in a school that was ready to support him. Yet, most students with disabilities do not have this luck. This is because there is no central government provision or action plan to make education more inclusive. 


As Anzar reflected, “The only support I have received from the government is the money I got from 4th to 7th standard for medicines. 7th se woh bhi band ho gaya. (That stopped in 7th standard) 

“That money has stopped but my medicines have not.” 

 

A major factor which can make or break education for students with disabilities is the ‘Disability certificate.’ This certificate makes its holder eligible for various state and central government schemes, scholarships, and even an unemployment allowance. Yet, the benefits of these certificates are seen by less than half of the people with disabilities in India as most of them are not able to get the certificates issued. This is since only medical boards of district civil hospitals can issue these disability certificates which are not accessible to all and many are even unaware of such a certificate. It is important to spread awareness of the rights and resources for people with disabilities so that they can also live life as equal citizens in India.


Written By Gauri Mande




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