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.
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.
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.
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.