“It is a violation of the child's right to be included in education system”

Some non-governmental organisations have opposed the recent amendment to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which makes home-based education a right for children with multiple and severe disabilities.

The clause says: “Provided that a child with ‘multiple disabilities' referred to in Clause (h) and a child with ‘severe disability' referred to in Clause (o) of Section 2 of the National Trust Welfare of the Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999 may also have the right to opt for home-based education.”

“We believe that this clause on home-based education is a violation of the fundamental right of the child to be included in the education system. Hence we oppose this clause,” said Aarth-Astha, a non-profit organisation working for the rights of people with disabilities and their families. The group has decided to launch a campaign against the amendment, which is to be tabled in the Lok Sabha now.

“Retrogressive step”

In a letter to Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Aasth-Astha has impressed upon him to reconsider the amendment: “We oppose this amendment and would like to point out that providing home-based education as an option to school education for children with multiple and severe disabilities is an extremely retrogressive step which will have huge negative repercussions on the rights of children. It is watering down of the fundamental right to education of every child and goes against the very spirit of the RTE Act, which is formalising education and building standards for quality,” the letter said.

Children with disabilities are the single largest group of out-of-school children, which was 34.19 per cent in 2005 and remained 34.12 per cent in 2009, according to the SRI-IMRB study. Children with disabilities are the largest group of out-of-school children even in comparison to other groups such as SCs, STs and Muslim population.

“In such a situation, giving an option of home-based education will serve to push out the child from the system. Field experience shows that children with disabilities have been consistently pushed out of the system. Parents of children who are vulnerable are unlikely to be in an equitable relationship with the education system. They are unlikely to be able to exercise choice given the resistance the system already has to their children,” the group said.

Concern has also been expressed over the effective implementation of the provision reserving 25 per cent seats to the economically weaker sections (EWS) in all schools as upheld by the Supreme Court.

In a statement issued here, Reene Tete, Director Programme at Udayan Care, said the RTE would need to “fill many gaps before we could say that it is truly ensuring equity in education for all children.”

Referring to a recent EWS provision under the RTE Act, which demands several proof — income certificate of parents, caste certificate, BPL card and birth certificate — Udayan Care felt it would actually debar millions of children from ever availing themselves of the benefits of RTE, because they are orphaned or abandoned.

Working for over 18 years with orphaned or abandoned children, Udayan Care believes that they are one of the most vulnerable groups; policies should make provisions to ensure their rights are met. “Quite to the contrary, this recent mandate expects children who don't even have/know about their families, to produce an income certificate, caste certificate, BPL card and birth certificate. Something that is practically impossible.”

Ms. Tete said that in some cases, “schools who admitted our children on humanitarian grounds are now requesting that they be pulled out for lack of proof being demanded under the Act.”

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The rights lensSeptember 18, 2012

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