In India, 75% of five-year-olds with disabilities and more than one in four children (in the age group of 5 to 19 years) with disabilities don’t attend any educational institution, finds UNESCO. The report titled ‘State of the Education Report for India 2019: Children with Disabilities’, was released by UNESCO in association with Tata Institute of Social Sciences on July 3rd.
Here are a few other key findings of the study:
India has more than 78 lakh children with disabilities, in the age group of 5 to 19.
Only 61% of these children are going to schools.
Almost 12% of them have dropped out while 27% of them have never been to school. What’s more, 20% of children with visual and hearing impairments had never been in school.
Apart from these data, the study also found that there are fewer girls with disabilities in schools than boys. When it comes to enrollment, quite a significant number of girls are left behind boys. The report also stated that while India is home to 8 million children with disabilities, 45% of them remain illiterate. Also, children with multiple disabilities, mental illnesses, and mental retardation form an alarming minority. The report says, “The proportion of children with disabilities, who are out of school, is much higher than the overall proportion of out of school children at the national level. Thus, although the schemes and programmes have brought children with disabilities into schools, gaps remain.”
While a large number of children with disabilities are enrolled at the National Institute of Open Schooling, their education largely remains unmonitored. In an interview to The Hindu, Arman Ali, Executive Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, said, “In many parts of rural India, if a parent opts for home-based education, the child may not be getting an education at all. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan teacher is supposed to visit and check, but how often does that happen? The number of excluded children is much higher than government data shows.” Arman is also part of the editorial board that worked on the report.
The way forward:
The UNESCO report suggests amendments to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) and alignment with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. There’s also an immediate need for structural, funding and attitudinal changes so that every child can exercise their right to education. We also need concentrated campaigns and large scale awareness drives, which will shed light on the situation and make us more empathetic of children with disabilities. Apart from these, our teaching practices need to be inclusive of diverse students with special needs.