Sangeeth Kurian

Central assistance to be limited to children only from the ninth standard

Scheme was of help to over two lakh children

Children in classes I to VIII excluded

citing SSA assistance

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The future of nearly 30,000 special children and their trainers is uncertain following the revision of a Centrally sponsored educational scheme for children with disabilities.

The revised Inclusive Education of the Disabled at the Secondary Stage, to take effect in April, de-links children in classes I to VIII from its purview.

The scheme was previously known as Integrated Education for the Disabled Children and benefited over two lakh students across the country.

It was introduced to provide educational opportunities for children with disabilities and to retain them in schools.

Now the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, which formulated the programme, has decided to exclude children in primary and upper primary sections from the revised scheme on grounds that the children in lower classes are receiving educational assistance from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

The SSA is a Centrally supported scheme aimed at achieving universal elementary education.

The move, the officials of the Directorate of Public Instruction here say, will lead to a “social problem.”

The services offered by the teachers of the SSA are far too inadequate to meet the requirement, says R. Rajan, Deputy Director, Integrated Education for the Disabled, Directorate of Public Instruction.

There are only three teachers under each of the 164 block-level resource centres of the SSA in the State.

Each block-level resource centre has nearly 60 schools under them.

Moreover, the educators of the SSA do not have any direct contact with special children. They only provide periodic training to those who look after them in schools.

This is when the directorate could provide one teacher for every eight students under the old scheme till last year, Mr. Rajan says.

The Union government should have consulted the State government and the nodal officers before revising the policy, he adds.

The revised policy has widened the scope of its target group to include children with autism, cerebral palsy, low vision and mental illness in addition to those mentally, visually, orthopaedically and aurally challenged.

“But then the educational needs of a section of students with disabilities should not be crucified to protect the interest of their senior counterparts,” says the Deputy Director.

“Our request is that the Central government should allow the existing programme to continue for at least a couple of years more or deploy all the resource teachers currently working with the SSA in regular schools.”