Amritsar, June 1
According to a UNESCO report in 2019, majority of children with special needs (CWSN) in India below the age of six year do not have access to education or any educational institute. Considering the number of children with special needs in rural belt, the number might be more.
In a bid to change the situation, not overnight but with consistent efforts, the district Education Department had set up 96 cluster resource centres in several educational blocks covering rural border belt. These resource centres are the epicentre of learning, early education and to provide medical support to parents from BPL or low-income groups, who have CWSN. The district Education Department has employed 99 inclusive education volunteers (IEVs) since its launch in 2008. These IEVs include qualified special educators and resource volunteers, who as part of the Integrated Education for the Disabled (IED) under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan, are running learning programmes at these resource centres and are involved in home-based education which aims to cover the out-of-school children suffering from a severe form of disability.
One such resource centre in Government Elementary school (boys), Attari, has 18 students with special needs, between the age of 6-17, who are being educated and provided medical aid. Another such resource centre at Lakshamansar, near Shaheedan Saheb area, has 32 students.
“Each of these resource centre has one resource volunteer and one special educator, who is assigned at block level takes care of six-eight such resource centre. We have total of 99 IEVs, who work on getting CWSN to schools, holding assessment camps and providing free medical aid. Each resource centre has an average of 10-12 CWSN and every month evaluation of the child is held, with focus on whether short term goals and long term goals being achieved or not,” informed Dharminder Gill, coordinator, Pehal resource centre, SSA, Amritsar. The strength in resource centres in rural border belt is lesser than the urban centres.
Most of the children with locomotor disabilities and physical disabilities are sent to mainstream schools later on, while children with intellectual disabilities continue at resource centres.
“The survey is done so as to get the details of the children with special needs. While many of them are in schools, several don’t go to school. As a part of the IED programme, medical aid and help is given to such children to make them capable of coming to schools and receive education,” informs Santosh, an inclusive education volunteer at GES (boys), Attari.
These IEVs are like lone warriors in taking the weight of success of this inclusive education programme. Santosh says that the volunteers are also involved in home-based education which aims to cover the out-of-school children suffering from a severe form of disability. “We have to initially counsel parents, who are mostly uneducated, lack awareness and do not have monetary means to support their child’s education. Once they agree to bring the child to school, the biggest challenge is to work on their consistency and communication,” she says. Since the beginning of the programme, the biggest challenge has been to get these children to school.
The department also gives away Rs 250 per child as travel allowance to facilitate families of CWSN children in rural belt to come to schools. “But it is quite negligible and so we have to additionally provide commute services for parents so the child doesn’t misses out on learning,” says Santosh.
These centres have been catering to needs of children with autism spectral disorder, cerebral palsy, hearing and visually impaired. “Several children with curable locomotive disabilities have also been treated for free with help of our resource centres,” informs Santosh.
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