‘Inclusive education a community-involved programme’

Though Jamal Mohamed College in Tiruchi admitted the first differently-abled student as early as in 1950, statistics in 2004 reveal that a mere two per cent are only enrolled in higher education institutions in India. Without the intervention of society, this cannot be improved, according to experts in special education.

Rather than orienting the whole society towards this task, the Department of Special Education of Avinashilingam University for Women decided to begin with college teachers as the first step to making inclusive education in higher education institutions a reality.

A group of teachers from affiliated colleges of Bharathiar University – at an orientation programme on “Promotion of Higher Education for Persons with Special Needs” – was briefed on ways of motivating the differently-abled towards higher education, in Coimbatore on Wednesday.

Though an innovative step, this is not the first of its kind for the university. According to Premavathy Vijayan, Head, Department of Special Education, this is the fourth edition of the orientation.

Impact

“The earlier three programmes were held over three years. The impact has been very positive. The enrolment of the differently-abled in the colleges from where teachers have been sent to attend the earlier orientations has improved. Not only this, colleges are also taking steps to become barrier-free for the differently-abled, to provide an ideal learning atmosphere for them,” she said.

Teachers were at the outset asked to see the differently-abled as humans and then as having disability later. The ways in which they could augment the enrolment percentage of the differently-abled were discussed.

This, not only meant giving them admission, but providing the support systems so that they felt included in the real sense.

“Lack of conducive learning environment, showing inadequate attention to learning needs, absence of commitment on the part of community to overcoming discrimination, physical or architectural barriers, are some of the factors that persist in preventing differently-abled from accessing education,” she said.

Next to parents and teachers, much importance was attached to peer group assistance. When rightly coached, they made excellent teachers to their differently-abled friends.

Earlier, inaugurating the orientation, R. Chandra, Dean, Faculty of Education, said inclusive education was a community-involved programme, the quality of which depended upon the extent of interaction between various functionaries of community development.

R. Srinivasan, visually challenged former Professor in English, lamented that the attitude of society towards persons with disability was not appreciable. Society had to be educated on their behaviour towards those with disability.

Experts in special education oriented the participants on other issues related to promoting higher education for the differently-abled. Participants got to know about the various Government policies, schemes, services, scholarships, etc.

Visually challenged Ph.D. scholar Anjum Khan demonstrated use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for reading and writing.

Participants were confident of repeating the success story of the earlier batches in making inclusive education a reality to more differently-abled.

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