A nationwide study by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to examine the enrolment, access and retention of children with disabilities (CWD) has revealed that while 99 per cent of these children liked attending regular schools, 57 per cent teachers were not trained to understand their special needs.
The study has found that special needs of children with mental illnesses were "neither being identified nor being addressed seriously".
A vast majority of teachers (88.1%) could say nothing on how to meet the special educational needs of disabled children in their classrooms. Only 35.1% could identify the needs of students with disabilities.
More than half of all teachers interviewed gave no response to questions on how they included disabled children in their day-to-day teaching.
The study evaluated the implementation of the centrally sponsored Inclusive Education of the Disabled at the Secondary Stage (IEDSS) scheme in 27 states and union territories at the secondary and senior secondary levels.
At the root of the problem is state apathy and the resultant lack of funds and training. Only 12 states have trained general teachers in special needs, and only three of these states have offered this training for five days or longer. Fifty-seven per cent of teachers have received no training.
Ironically, children with disabilities expressed a strong desire for inclusive schooling with special attention. Nearly every student with disability (99%) liked going to school; nearly half (44.5%) said they needed teachers to give them special attention.
Students also expressed the need for better adapted toilets and playgrounds, indoor sports rooms and better seating facilities. They wanted the teacher to speak louder and interact more with them.
IEDSS aims to help disabled students — especially girl students — to complete secondary school in an inclusive environment. Over the past few years, enrolment levels of girls with disabilities has fallen everywhere except in Manipur. Average enrolment in the surveyed states and UTs fell from 43.57% in 2009-10 to 40.21% in 2012-13. In Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, the enrolment of disabled girls has been consistently under 40%.
Overall enrolment of children with disabilities has increased in 13 states and UTs; it has fallen in three. Five states tracking dropout rates have showed an increase in the rate.
The study has recommended that enrolment of girls with special needs be accorded top priority; dropout rates of these students at the elementary level be arrested; awareness and availability of assistive aids be improved; service and pre-service teacher training be restructured, and recruitment policies be geared towards appointing special educators.
The study has also suggested a more flexible curriculum with space for creative arts and multimedia, and hostel facilities for children with severe physical disabilities. The issuing of disability certificates should be facilitated, and attempts made to ensure that most CWDs are enrolled in regular schools rather than being schooled at home.
CAN, BUT OFTEN UNABLE
* Read blackboard
* Write with a pen
* Understand teacher's speech
* Mid-day meals
* Seating arrangements
* Lack of water
* More support from teachers
* Extra time in class
* Ramps from class to playground