The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to amend the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, (RTE) to make it more disabled-friendly by including children with autism, cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities within its ambit.

This has been a pending demand of the disability sector which was up in arms in August this year over Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry confining the provision mandating that schools reserve 25 per cent seats at entry level for ‘children belong to disadvantaged group’ only to children with physical disabilities.

Presently, only children suffering from disabilities defined in the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection and Full Participation) Act, 1996, (PWD) are entitled to access the quota. After the proposed amendment, children in the six-to-14 age group covered by the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999, will also be entitled to special rights to pursue free and compulsory education.

Allay fears

Another irritant -- non-inclusion of children with disabilities within the meaning of ‘children belonging to disadvantaged group’ provided in the Act – has also been addressed in the amendment. Though the Ministry had initially argued that disabled children were covered as RTE extended to children under the PWD Act, the Government has decided to address the apprehensions of the disability sector on this count and spell it out clearly.

This apart, the amendment will also concede a demand of minorities with regard to School Management Committees (SMCs) that have to be set up in all government and aided schools. In the case of aided minority institutions, SMCs will only perform an advisory function. In all other aided institutions, the SMCs can monitor the functioning of schools and even prepare school development plans.

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