March 23, 2023

General Studies Paper 2

Context: Children with disability/disabilities (CWD) do not have accessible spaces and other guiding infrastructure in schools to get safely.

Children with disability/disabilities (CWD):

  • There are more than 78 lakh children with disabilities in India between 5-19 years.
  • Only 61% of children were attending an educational institution.
  • About 12% had dropped out, while 27% had never been to school at all.
  • There are fewer girls with disabilities in schools than boys
    • School enrollment: more girls with disabilities get left behind than boys.

UNESCO 2019 report:

  • Census 2011: CWD comprises 7(one point seven)% of the total child population in India
  • More than 70% of five-year-olds with disabilities in India have never attended any educational institution
  • Many CWD also tend to drop out of school as they grow older.

Barriers to accessibility:

  • Inaccessible school buses
  • Inaccessible facilities in schools (drinking water facilities, canteens and toilets)
  • Inappropriate infrastructure in classrooms (uncomfortable seating, slippery flooring and low illumination).
  • Misinformed attitudes and perceptions among parents, teachers, staff, and communities.
  • The lack of teaching and learning practices that integrate inclusive technologies and digital equipment to engage the child, such as assistive devices, are additional challenges.
  • At training programmes conducted by UN-Habitat India and IIT Kharagpur: Accessible infrastructure within schools, such as ramps or tactile paths, are either in deficit or have not been constructed utilizing suitable materials.

Different laws for providing accessible education to all:

  • Article 21A of the Constitution
  • Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009: the fundamental right to education and the right to have free and compulsory education for children aged 6-14 years.
  • The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which adopted a ‘zero rejection policy’
    • It emphasizes that “every child with special needs, irrespective of the kind, category and degree of disability, is provided with a meaningful and quality education”.
  • India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:
  • Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) in 2015: Accessibility to built environment.
  • Principle of Leave No One Behind (LNOB): which is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

What steps need to be taken?

  • Awareness and sensitisation programmes for children, parents, and caregivers
  • Training trainers for upskilling of school faculty and special educators and providing access to updated teaching toolkits and materials
  • Technical training for local government departments
  • co-learning platform for knowledge-sharing between all.

Constitutional Provisions related to education:

  • Part IV of Indian Constitution, Article 45 and Article 39 (f) of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), has a provision for state-funded as well as equitable and accessible education.
  • The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1976 moved education from the State to the Concurrent List.
  • Article 21A: It provides free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. The 86th Amendment in 2002 made education an enforceable right under Article 21-A.
  • Article 39(f): It provides that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
  • Article 45: The State shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.

ARTICLE 46: The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Government Initiatives:

  • National Education Policy 2020.
  • Samagra Shiksha (SS) 2.0
  • NIPUN Bharat Mission
  • PM Poshan Scheme
  • Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE).
  • Performance Grading Index
  • National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: It gives high priority to the acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy skills especially for children in early grades.
  • NIPUN Bharat” (where NIPUN is National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy) the government’s flagship programme designed to translate policy into practice, is beginning to have traction in many States.

Way Forward

  • To motivate all children to meaningfully participate in all indoor and outdoor activities without barriers or limitations, the school ecosystem has to be made safe, accessible, and reliable.
  • The cooperation, involvement, and sensitisation of parents and caregivers, teachers, school management authorities, and the local government departments are required so that all these barriers are actively addressed.
  • Mainstreaming LNOB project by UN-Habitat: pilot training programmes on enhancing accessibility and inclusion were implemented in two schools in Delhi with support from IIT Kharagpur and the Department of Social Welfare, Delhi government.
  • Through interactive training sessions and simulation exercises that encourage empathy-building.
    • It can go a long way in creating inclusive spaces.
  • Developing inclusive and accessible schools will be a big step towards not only challenging perceptions about CWD, and the associated discrimination, but also in actualising the zero-rejection policy in schools.
  • A multi-pronged participatory approach towards providing an enabling environment for the empowerment of future citizens is needed to ensure that stakeholders in the school ecosystem collectively work towards promoting accessibility and inclusion in schools.
  • Five principles:
    • Equitability, usability and durability, affordability, cultural adaptability, and aesthetic appeal.
    • They should be embedded from the planning to implementation to evaluation stages of providing infrastructure services in schools.
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