Window Seat: NEP and Inclusive Education for the Disabled

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | February 18, 2024 IST

Window Seat: NEP and Inclusive Education for the Disabled

Mrinal Chatterjee

Globally, one in five children, adolescents and youth, are entirely excluded from education. Poverty, location, gender, language, disability, ethnicity, religion, migration or displacement status are among factors that continue to dictate and limit opportunities.

Unfortunately the idea of disability is often associated with helplessness and a sense of pettiness for the disabled. This further creates a sense of inferiority and shame among the disabled people, which further hinders their social lives. In India, historically and culturally, disability has been considered a matter of shame, because of some curse of bad deeds in the past life. In ancient India, for example, while mythology and history generally advocated for the rulers and families to take care of people with disabilities, they were often described as weak or as atoning for past sins. European attitudes were more negligent in earlier centuries, often ostracizing people with disabilities from communities.

Fortunately, attitudes towards disability are undergoing a change, albeit at a very slow pace.

This change and inclusion of persons with disability can be done by two overlapping ways: One, by improved medical intervention and revamping rehabilitation services; and Two, by empowering the persons with disability to be independent socially and financially. Education
 can play a critical role in empowerment and providing financial independence.

India has appreciated this aspect fairly early. The first special school for the blind in India was set up at Amritsar in 1887 – the Sharp Memorial School for the Blind, named after its founder, Annie Sharp. The first school for the deaf was started at Mazagaon, in the then Bombay Presidency, in 1884 by a Roman Catholic mission. Several special schools for persons with disability (PwD) opened after independence. However, the legal thrust came much later.
 
 Despite the initiatives, the progress has been slow. As per 2011 census, 55 percent of the disabled population in India were literate (average literacy rate of India was 74.04%). Meanwhile, 62 per cent of male disabled population was also literate. In comparison, among the female population with disability, only 45 percent were literate. On the other hand, respectively six percent and three percent of male and female disabled population in India were graduates and above. It means- children with disabilities are not pursuing education beyond a stage for various reasons. Lack of education or any kind of vocational training negatively impacts their employability. In a curious way, financial status gets linked with social acceptability and status. Lack of education, thus perpetuates their misery. This is a huge
 challenge.

When it comes to education for the PwD, there has been a debate over whether they should be provided education in general schools along with others or in special schools. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The initial thrust was for special schools.

However, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 1995, a comprehensive breakthrough legislation that provided for children with disabilities clearly states that all children with disabilities should be educated with non-disabled children of their own age and have access to the general education curriculum. 

National Education Policy (NEP) has factored that. The policy paper says, “Disabilities impact access to opportunities for learning and achievement of a learner’s full potential. It is therefore imperative to design a flexible education system that caters to the individual needs and abilities.”

It is all very well.

However, the challenges are daunting. The major challenges in proving and accessing education for persons with disabilities can be divided into three broad categories: attitudinal, physical and institutional.

A seminar on how these challenges can be overcome was organized at Bhubaneswar based KIIT University. It resulted in interesting findings and suggestions, about which I’ll be writing next week.

Where are the young politicians?

In 2023, 26-year-old Elvish Yadav won Bigg Boss by receiving over 80 million votes (almost the population of 18-30-year-olds who don’t vote in India’s elections),” writes Sudhanshu Kaushik in his book ‘The Future is ours: The Political Promise of India’s Youth’. He is the founder of the Young India Foundation, a public trust engaged in research, advocacy and mobilisation to support and increase the participation of young people in Indian politics.

The author’s contention is that individuals who engage so passionately with popular culture should show the same excitement towards candidates. But this is not happening. A large section of the educated young population of this country keeps themselves away from the electoral process. Many of them do not even vote. Why? Kaushik argues, why would they go through so much trouble, especially when they know that they will be governed by politicians who are older than them by a few decades and out of touch with the struggles and aspirations of India’s youth?  “India is not  only a democratic republic, but it is also a thriving gerontocracy that inhibits the future of its young, " writes Mr. Kaushik.

It drives home the irony that in India, a country that boasts of the largest youth demographic in the world hardly has young politicians at the helm of affairs.

Since the first election in 1952, the average age has increased every election, other than once in 1999. An average age of 46.5 has increased to 58 in 2023 in the seventeenth Lok Sabha,” he notes. “The number of parliamentarians in the 25-40 age group has been dwindling, and this is a matter of concern because people who are older are not necessarily better at the job”.

This may not be a valid argument, but Kaushik has a point.

Why can’t we have more young politicians at the top level? Why so?

Topi

I am fascinated by the myriad colourful headgears that are worn across the country. Last week I wrote about pagdi or safa of Rajasthan. This week one of my Dehradun based student presented me two topis- one is a Himachali topi with a geometric design and the other pahadi cap of Uttarakhand with an insignia of ‘bramhakamal’ (Saussurea obvallata), the State flower of Uttarakhand.

I am thinking of collecting more to start a private museum or request an existing one to introduce a section on topi and headgear.

Disclaimer:

This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.

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