Is there a certificate to mask laziness at school and even get a few marks more into the bargain? Yes, it goes by the name of learning disability certificate and is in huge demand.
On November 6, the District General Hospital, Ernakulam, had to call in the police as some hundred students, along with their parents and teachers, barged into the psychiatrist’s room in their hurry to get the certificate. But not all had learning disability.
It is that time of the year when government hospitals across the State experience the rush as schools have to submit the certificate for the Secondary School Learning Certificate examination.
The rules prescribed for children with special needs allow extra time or the help of a scribe or interpreter to write the examination. Children who have a certificate of 40 per cent mental retardation are given 25 per cent additional marks.
Taking stock of the situation, Director of Public Instruction (DPI) Biju Prabhakar told The Hindu that if children without learning disability used the certificate, they would be debarred from appearing for the examination for a year. Parents and teachers who had misrepresented the ability of their children would be given time till December 31 to withdraw their applications.
He said action would be taken against psychiatrists and psychologists who issued the certificates without proper assessment.
A medical board should certify all cases, and if need be, the government would consider forming more boards.
During this period, the government medical colleges and mental health hospitals see at least a 30 per cent increase in the number of outpatient cases, possibly a result of the rush.
Harish M.T., Professor of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Kozhikode, said that in the past three or four years, provisions for children with special needs had been blatantly misused by schools and parents of students with poor scholastic performance but no learning disability.
The parents and the teachers who arrived at the General Hospital here could be reassured only after the office of the Deputy Director of Education announced that that the date had been extended for submitting the certificate.
The rush in the hospital broke out again last Wednesday with over 100 persons registered in the outpatient clinic, most of them coming for the certificate. With only one psychologist in the hospital, assessing more than five cases a day is difficult. Two psychologists manage to assess 20 cases.
C.J. John, a psychiatrist here, said it was a lopsided issue. Children should be screened for learning disability at the upper primary level. With training and remedial measures, they could be brought into the mainstream. If the remedial measures did not work, such students would need help in writing the examination.
Dr. Harish said the parents and teachers went on a mad rush for the certificates without trying to understand if the children had intellectual handicap, specific learning disabilities or other problems.
The term specific learning disabilities was being used for anyone with poor scholastic performance. But it was a neuro-developmental disorder affecting about five per cent of the population.