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Children with Disabilities Left Out of Education

  • Published: 2009-08-03 (Revised/Updated 2010-05-23) : Author: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: An editorial about children with disabilities in India being left out of education.

Main Document

The chances for twenty-million children with disabilities in India to get the education they deserve is in jeopardy because the Right to Education Bill currently excludes them, and has been tabled in the Lok Sabha on July 30th.

Disability rights activists have met with Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal, pointing our this lacuna; he was dismissive of their appeal to delay the bill, as well as their request to incorporate children with disabilities. Activists plan further demonstrations to demand inclusion of children with disabilities in the bill, which is to be passed in the Lok Sabha.

Javed Abidi, a member of the Disability Rights Group stated, "He bluntly told us that nothing could be done now and the Bill could not be delayed at any cost. He also said there was no money for this." An earlier draft of the Bill had mentioned children with disabilities specifically. The version of the Bill that was tabled in the Lok Sabha erased references to children with disabilities, according to disability activists.

The Bill speaks of children being covered by the Disability Act of 1995; therefore excluding children with mental and learning disabilities covered by the National Trust Act Chapter 2 of the Bill states, "Provided that a child suffering from disability, as defined in clause (i) of section 2 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection and Full Participation) Act, 1996, shall have the right to pursue free and compulsory elementary education in accordance with the provisions of Chapter V of the said Act." What this implies is that children with disabilities are excluded from the Right to Education Act, one that should cover all children.

Adibi said, "This Bill must be stopped or a grave injustice would be done to millions of children with disabilities. At present, just two per cent of such children get education, the disability groups say. Mithu Alur, chairman of the Spastics Society of India, said Sibal has justified the exclusion of the disabled by saying there was no money for them. But that is not true, as the Eleventh Plan has set aside three per cent of the budget of every ministry for the disabled. There is a disconnect between the intentions of the government and what the education minister is saying."

Disability activists state the the government may come out with a notification at a later time, amending the Bill, but that it currently had to be passed and could not be delayed. Disability activists said this proves that people with disabilities are a low priority for the government. India was one of the first nations to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Oct of 2007. The Convention states, "State parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education or from secondary education on the basis of disability."

President Obama's administration in America and the government of the United Kingdom have also signed the Convention. In my opinion, governments that reach for the excuse of, 'no money,' where social issues are concerned, putting burdens on the people who can least bear them, are not practicing what they preach. Signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is not merely symbolic, it is a statement of action. Nations cannot sign the Convention one day, leaving the principles of the Convention when money gets tight, in order to place burdens on people with disabilities. Providing for the needs of people who are in a better position to provide for themselves before providing for those who are not in such a position does not speak well of the government.

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