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SC’s Got It Wrong: Children With Disabilities Don’t Need ‘Special’ Schools

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Recently, the Supreme Court of India has made an observation that students with disabilities must be admitted to ‘special‘ schools. The apex court has said that it is ‘impossible to think’ that children, who have any kind of disability or have a mental disability, can be imparted education in mainstream schools along with ‘normal’ children.

I would like to draw the attention of our apex court that India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007.  Article 24 of the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) states that the children with disabilities should not be discriminated against and they should be able to participate in the general education system. Goal 4 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for building and upgrading education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

According to the Right to Education Act, 25% of the seats in private schools should be reserved for poor and disadvantaged groups. If students with disabilities are placed in ‘special’ schools they would not able to gain the benefits given to the people in the EWS quota.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act also supports the objective of achieving full inclusion of students with disabilities.

The best practices that are prevalent worldwide and even the policy framework of our own country indicate that the time has finally come to end the separation of students who have disabilities.

The conventional approach in the educational system was that the learners had to kneel down before the teaching styles. But the new approach of providing accommodations says that the teaching styles have to bow before the need of each and every individual. This is the real basis of inclusive education where students are provided with community membership and greater opportunities for academic and social achievement; where each and every student feels welcome and that their unique needs and learning styles are attended to and valued.

Students have higher achievement in fully integrated environments. It is a win-win situation for everyone. Students without special needs can gain a number of important benefits from relationships with their classmates who have special needs. Some of the benefits include friendships, social skills, personal principles, comfort level with people who have special needs and caring classroom environments. So that meaningful learning is enhanced.

Inclusive education promises to enable children with and without disabilities to grow up together where the teachers teach students and not disability labels. Unfortunately, in a segregated educational set up students with disabilities can be blocked from meaningful interaction with knowledge and diversity of the outside world.

Deliberately segregating them can make their transition from schools to college and university and from universities to the world of work more difficult. Students with disabilities can be blocked from meaningful interaction with knowledge and outside world due to an inflexible text and instructional set up which may inadvertently create physical, sensory, effective, or cognitive barriers.

Rather than segregating them we need to ensure that all students with disabilities have an equal access to the general curriculum or enjoy comparable opportunities that our educational system offers.

I would like to request the honourable judges of Supreme Court to reconsider the whole issue that ”it is possible to think” that children with disabilities can be placed in mainstream schools.

Flexibility is the key here. Teachers in inclusive schools would have to be trained to vary their teaching styles and to meet the diverse learning styles of a diverse population of students. Several strategies can be employed by the educators to give these students access, including using a curriculum that has been universally designed for accessibility.

What our education system really needs is universal design in instruction. It provides an approach to teaching and learning that enables teachers to reach all students in their classrooms despite the great diversities that exist. Universal design along with assistive devices can thus level the playing ground where the students, as well as the teacher with disabilities, can show their full potential.

Education is the whole package of transmission, acquisition, creation and adaptation of information, knowledge, skills and values which prepares the students to contribute towards communities and workplace. It is a key lever for sustainable development. In the areas of attaining knowledge and information, we are all diverse individuals. The neuroscience of learning emphasises on three key aspects of pedagogy: the means of representing information, the means for the expression of knowledge, and the means of engagement in learning. Means of instructions have to shift their methods from delivering instruction to promoting learning.

We are all unique. We learn differently, we express differently and we all represent differently. And inclusion is an effort to make sure that diverse learners – those with disabilities, different languages and cultures, different homes and family lives, different interests and ways of learning – are exposed to teaching strategies that reach them as individual learners.

Inclusion is neither a concrete nor a tangible thing that can be built up over the night. This philosophy is based on the truth that we all have our own strengths and weakness and we need to accept and adapt accordingly if we want to keep moving ahead by maximising our individual potential. The philosophy of inclusion is based on tolerance, pluralism and equality. To be fully functional, this philosophy has to be absorbed continuously into the psyche of each and every individual of the community and that too in a sustainable form.

The concept of inclusive education is based on a vision of inclusive societies in which all citizens have equitable opportunities to access effective and relevant learning throughout life, delivered through multiple formal, non-formal and informal settings. Our job is to carry the idea of inclusion and accessibility down to the level where there are no divisions.

We need an educational framework where ‘silos’ are dissolved and collaborative teaching structures emerge at all grade levels.


Image source: Santosh Harhare/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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