Developing schools without barriers

Source– The post is based on the article “Developing schools without barriers” published in The Hindu on 25th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Vulnerable action of the population

Relevance– Issue related to disabled children

News– The article explains the challenges faced by disabled children. It also explains various national and international initiatives that provide educational access to disabled children. It also suggests some solutions for providing more educational access to these children.

What are the challenges faced by children with disabilities?

A UNESCO 2019 report mentioned that children with disabilities comprise 1.7% of the total child population in India. They are faced with physical, institutional, socioeconomic and communication barriers from an early age.

As per the report, more than 70% of five-year-olds with disabilities in India have never attended any educational institution.

Several barriers impede the participation of CWD in accessing educational opportunities These are inaccessible school buses; inaccessible facilities in schools like drinking water facilities, canteens and toilets.

There is inappropriate infrastructure in classrooms like uncomfortable seating, slippery flooring and low illumination.

Misinformed attitudes and perceptions among parents, teachers, staff, and communities influences the child’s emotional development.

There is a lack of teaching and learning practices that integrate inclusive technologies and digital equipment to engage the child.

What are the constitutional provisions, government intervention and international instruments that promote education for disabled children?

Article 21A of the Constitution and the Right to Education Act, 2009 outline the fundamental right to education and the right to have free and compulsory education for children aged 6-14 years.

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has adopted a ‘zero rejection policy’. It emphasises that every child with special needs is provided quality education.

India has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The government launched the Accessible India Campaign in 2015. An important pillar of this campaign is accessibility to the built environment.

What is the way forward to increase the educational opportunities for children with disabilities?

There is a need to develop inclusive and accessible schools. They will not challenge perceptions about children with disabilities and the associated discrimination. It will also help in actualising the zero-rejection policy in schools.

A multi-pronged participatory approach for providing an enabling environment for the empowerment of future citizens is needed. It will ensure that stakeholders in the school ecosystem collectively work towards promoting accessibility and inclusion in schools.

It includes awareness and sensitisation programmes for children, parents, and caregivers. Trainers are needed for upskilling of school faculty and special educators and providing access to updated teaching toolkits and materials.

It is required to provide technical training to local government departments; and a co-learning platform for knowledge-sharing between all.

Five principles of equitability, usability and durability, affordability, cultural adaptability, and aesthetic appeal are of special importance. It should be embedded from the planning to implementation to evaluation stages of providing infrastructure services in schools.

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