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Did We Think About Children With Disabilities As We Shifted To Online Learning?

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COVID-19 has bought unprecedented challenges around the globe in various spectrums. Every field is facing unknown problems as a result of the pandemic. As no one was ready for a situation where everything would be shut down, every sphere has to face the challenge of overcoming this situation and make its employees and associates adapt to the new normal.

Education is one of the most prominent spheres that have been affected by this pandemic, and the children have been forced to give up their school and regular education routine. While it is highly appreciable that several ideas are coming out to support education and regular educational routine.

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Schools and universities are offering meaningful solutions to this challenging situation. Also, it is no surprise that all children with disabilities have failed to grab the attention of the authorities to help them overcome this challenging situation. People have failed again to recognize the needs of these children. Children with Disabilities (CwDs) yet again have been excluded from the entire discourse.

It is a shocking fact that many children with disabilities in India don’t go to school for education. This stripe of children even fails to attain basic education. When we combine other structural inequalities like poverty, caste, gender, religion, etc., children with disabilities are more likely than other vulnerable categories to be excluded from education. Children with normal motor and cognitive activities can attend schools accessible to them, but children with disabilities are not even able to access these schools due to the lack of teachers and facilities that they need.

The Existing Landscape Of Education For Children With Disabilities In India

It is important to know that education for children with disabilities is already at the crossroads. The curriculum designed for them is not up to their level and needs. Also, the people who are preparing a curriculum framework for their education are not that aware of their problems and how they could be solved. The data provided by the government and local authorities about disabled children is not updated according to the RPwD act, and there is no information available about these children on whether they are going to school or not.

Two primary government ministries are responsible for taking care of the educational needs of disabled children: the Department of Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities (DEPD) (under the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare) and the Ministry of Human Resource Department (HRD).

These ministries deal with various issues related to CwDs, such as launching and implementing special schemes related to rehabilitation and education of persons with disabilities (PwDs); education and training of rehabilitation professionals in compliance with international conventions like the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. etc. The latter addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities through schemes under Samagra Sikhsha Abhiyaan, National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), Rehabilitation Council of India, etc.

The educational rights of children with disabilities also come under the Right to Education (RTE) Act under ‘disadvantaged group’, or marginalized children. These children are also eligible to have free and compulsory education from ages 6-14 years. This act talks about admittance and education for the disabled child but fails to explain how we can deploy efficient and effective physical and digital infrastructure to provide them with education.

It is important to have appropriate teaching tools and technologies to promote inclusive education for all. Lack of clarity, resources, and direction is making education for the disabled more worrisome during the pandemic COVID-19 that is obligating school education for these children, including other children physically.

Ways To Step Forward For The Education Of Children With Disabilities

The current pandemic has increased the complexities for the parents of disabled children due to quarantine and social distancing. Children with disabilities hardly follow any fixed schedule or learning environment, and these issues are enough to create pressure on children and parents. But with unprecedented difficulty and situations, the present situation has also opened the doors to introspect and innovate.

Education for the disabled should be made effective and efficient through an inclusive education system. These disabled children are still facing negligence and apathy when it comes to their education. But in the present times, authorities can benefit from the pandemic situation by providing a common base for all children.

Special provisions should be made to allow special educators to provide education to these children with the use of technology and innovative teaching techniques. Deployment of e-learning techniques can also become a way to reach many children simultaneously. All these suggestions are possible when the government takes a keen interest in creating the right environment for disabled children to make education inclusive and universal.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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