This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Tara Kalra. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Does NEP 2020 Consider The On-Ground Realities Of Students With Disabilities?

More from Tara Kalra

The problem with the Indian Education System largely remains a problem of accessibility, proper distribution and incentivisation of teachers and trainers, and a parochial mindset when it comes to approaching student-related problems.

The New Education Policy, introduced in 2020 places hyperfocus on examination patterns and timeline structures, leaving behind the shortcomings and gaps that persist in implementation. The policy still does not make any significant changes to the educational framework which largely remains exclusive in nature.

There is very little mention of barrier-free special education especially in the context of classroom experiences, student diversity, resources and training available for teachers. With respect to special education, the New Education Policy clearly mentions special schools and home-based education without considering the consequences of such segregationist policy endeavours.

Policies introduced to take a minimum of three to four years to be implemented. Even then, for the effects to translate into ground-level action, what we need is active de-stigmatisation and inculcation of a human touch to transform the pedagogical processes operative in our country’s education system.

Representational image.

The Barriers In NEP: What About Ground Level Implications?

In a conversation with Youth Ki Awaaz, special Education teacher Neelam Katariya provides an insight into the hindrances she experienced while working at the Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in New Delhi’s Soami Nagar.

“I think a lot of policies that we have today fail to recognise how different things are at the ground level. While I agree that change is happening, at a personal level, I still have to grapple with a mindset that views special education as an extra non-teaching job.

Often, I have to devote my time to clerical work and find it difficult to take out substantially ideal hours for my students,” she says.

Even when there is a designated position for special education, there is a high level of ambiguity around the functions of the teacher, not to mention the lack of resources that further add to the difficulties.

There’s widespread unawareness even amongst the teachers that inhibit a student’s access to proper diagnosis and treatment.

“Most teachers are unaware of the difference between mental and physical age and the overlapping nature of many learning disabilities. The general viewpoint is to push the students and make them adjust as opposed to altering the system for them.

Even as a teacher, there’s no substitute for me and I often have to engage myself in extra work like exam duty. It’s a difficult situation not only because of resources but also because of how things operate within the school,” says Ms Katariya as she provides her insight.

Ms Katariya further shares how the situation hasn’t changed in the past one and a half years. Due to the pandemic, most children have negligible access to mobile phones and data, making one to one interactions virtually impossible. Some amount of work done through worksheets and activities is still possible, but according to her, the real problem persists in the area of bringing in new children, especially those who are young and in their formative years of learning.

“I have thirteen children with me who I attend to on a priority basis, paying additional attention to those who need more than just academic assistance,” she adds further.

A great step in the right direction has been the setting up of district-wise therapy centres where children with special needs (CWSN) can engage in speech, art, and sensory therapy after obtaining a reliable diagnosis. It’s an alternative bringing in much relief especially for the parents of children who can not afford private therapy.

According to Ms, Katariya, even though this project was introduced five years ago, initiating state-aided therapy, incentivising and increasing special education and counselling jobs seems to be the best approach forward.

girl school disability
There is very little mention of barrier-free special education in the context of classroom experiences, student diversity, and training available for teachers. Representational image.

The Critical Role Of Parents In Inclusive Education

The New Education Policy also fails to recognise the need for interaction-based, inclusive education wherein the role of parents is equally important.

“Whatever work we do in schools becomes nullified as there’s very little assistance at home. Most children have both their parents working. Considering most of them are from difficult socio-economic backgrounds, they’re unable to seek guidance or resources to work on themselves,” Ms Katariya remarks further.

Teachers and parents are still left ambiguous about various considerations such as resource constraints, cultural angularities, assessment patterns and the regulatory bodies in charge of implementation and smooth functioning.

It’s Worse For Girls With Disabilities. What’s The Way Forward?

The problem of implementation also correlates to the problem of inclusion and integration which are often used simultaneously. For decades, the Indian Education system has worked on a model that prioritises integration and uniformity rather than inclusivity.

There’s very little focus on altering the core structure of the system that has time and again failed to recognise individual differences and diverse backgrounds.

A balance between individualised attention and inclusive practices within the classroom needs to be struck so that teachers are better equipped at recognising various forms of learning disabilities and not perceive these children as specific burdens. This, as pointed out by Ms Katariya, is fully possible when teachers are allowed the time and space to do their job fully instead of mere clerical involvement.

The NEP with its emphasis on foundational literacy and numeracy, tells us significantly less about the future of those already enrolled and facing adversities.

“Even if the child continues till class ninth, depending on the nature of the kind of assistance they’d need, further education becomes a tricky arena to navigate,” says Ms Katariya. For her, a great step forward would be to focus on vocational training and centres so that children with special needs can become self-reliant. This would not only give them a sense of independence, remove the perceived familial burden, but also stop parents of girls from marrying them off.

Ms Katariya tells us how even today, in a lot of situations, parents of girls with disabilities tend to marry them in the hopes of reducing their supposed burden. Their situation doesn’t become any easier after marriage. In certain circumstances, the married girls bear children which, with the mother, are then left to be taken care of by the parents.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Youth Ki Awaaz (@youthkiawaaz)

The need for proper sensitisation becomes even more important when dealing with different yet difficult situations a teenage child with a learning disability might go through. According to Ms Katariya, there are times girls with intellectual disabilities are unable to handle the onslaught of puberty and menstruation.

Citing a case she took care of, a girl with a mental age of six is unable to handle herself when she starts her menstrual cycle. As a result of which, she’s perpetually dependent on her mother and sister. For such children, especially girls, discussions around bodily autonomy, sexual health, exercising informed choice, and the right to say no becomes even more important. Their vulnerable position mustn’t hinder their ability to have a full right over their bodies.

As mentioned by Ms Katariya, the focus should also be on sensitising and educating the teachers and building time focused Individual Educational Plans targeted around the social and emotional capacities of the students, in addition to their academic capabilities. The narrow-minded focus on special schools would inevitably nullify the vision for inclusive education and further perpetuate the idea of uniformity as opposed to unity and a widening space for changing the system by its roots.

The only way any educational policy will translate to actual positive effect would be by valuing and training teachers, removing any structural or departmental hindrance, and making sure all children with special needs are given adequate attention and material support for them to live a dignified, independent, and informed life.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.

Note: The author is part of the Sept-Oct ’21 batch of the Writer’s Training Program

You must be to comment.

More from Tara Kalra

Similar Posts

By Sailesh Ramakrishnan

By India Development Review (IDR)

By Amrit Foundation of India

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below