SRINAGAR: Sitting near a window in his room, Junaid Ahmad Dar, 10, resident of Rainawari, is trying to grip a pencil in his hand. He is struggling to hold the pencil between his fingers but it falls from his hand. Rukhsana, his mother helps him by placing the pencil between his fingers and thumb.
Diagnosed of polio at age 5, Junaid is a child with special needs (CWSN). He cannot talk and needs special schooling but he studies at Government Middle School Rainawari along with normal children. For the last three years he is in the same class.
“He is still in Nursery class. They do not provide any special facility to him. They give him a book which he cannot cope with,” Rukhsana said.
“We cannot do anything for our child. My husband is a labourer. Sometimes, I wish my child dies because who will take care of him after me. I sent him to school in the hope that he will learn something but he cannot learn anything,” she lamented.
The government does not operate any special school for children with special needs, and most of them have to study in normal government schools.
No. of differently-abled persons in J&K= 3.60 lac Visually impaired= 2.8 lac Physically handicapped= 38,000 Speech disabilities= 13,000 Children with special needs= 30,237 Enrolled in govt schools= 24,363 (Sources—J&K census, state govt report 2016-17)
Activist Javid Ahmad Tak told Kashmir Reader that there is no inclusive facility in government schools.
The education department has established resource rooms at district levels to provide education to special children in Braille, sign language and other techniques under concept of relaxed curriculum for which the resource persons or special educators were employed through state project director Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan.
Tak said the resource persons were working in different offices making the resource rooms defunct.
“The children with disabilities, mostly blind and deaf who were taking benefit of these special educators, are now in schools where the general line teachers too are worried how to create inclusive educational system for these children with disabilities. That is the reason these children drop out,” Tak said.
Modern High School at Solina Srinagar is an inclusive school where normal and children with special needs study together. According to the school records, it is presently taking care of 67 deaf and dumb students and seven visually impaired students (from Kupwara, Baramulla and other localities).
The school has 14 staff members, with three trained in sign language and two in Braille. It is affiliated with JK BOSE for matriculation and annual grant for various schemes is provided by Social Welfare department. Naziya Rashid special education teacher at the school told Kashmir Reader that general line teachers cannot teach special students.
“A special child needs more time and attention. They need facility for deaf and dumb children, they need audio video software which a government school doesn’t provide. In government schools there is no ramp, no wheelchairs, inclusive children need reminder school, sign language and a special trained teacher,” Naziya said.
Arif Ahmad, Joint Secretary publication of JK BOSE said that the Board provides books to specially challenged students enrolled in registered schools, but the books are not specially made for them.
“Braille books are not provided by BOSE, same books which are for normal students are provided to specially challenged students. We had given proposals for big font books for specially challenged students, but till day no fund was provided,” Arif said.
Joint Secretary Administration, M A Lallu, said that while BOSE does not provide Braille books, it gives extra five marks and a helper. “But this is given only to those physically disabled students, who can produce reasonable evidence of having difficulty in attending normal institutions. We are involved only for examination and not in practical training. Proper medical certificate is provided by student and we register him and conduct exams, provided that blind candidate can offer music as one of their subjects, as in this subject 70% is practical and 30% is written, which becomes easy for candidate,” Lallu said.
Mehboob Hussain, Principal of State Institute of Education (SIE) told Kashmir Reader that the directorate of school education has set up a special cell at SIE in March 2017.
“This special cell is responsible for coordinating the inclusive education programs of Kashmir division. By the help of this cell we are also trying to work out on the quality of education for children with special needs,” Hussain said.
Nodal Officer of the special cell Dr Rabia Naseem said that right now government doesn’t have any special school for these students. “They study with normal students without having proper facilitates, but in inclusive classroom proposal we have taken their necessities into consideration. Everything will be for their benefit,” she said.
“Very soon our new concept of having inclusive classrooms for these students will be introduced where children with special needs will study with normal students, as it is more effective for them when they are treated equally. We had forwarded the proposal in which everything is mentioned from dimensions to interior of classroom which is suitable for these students. Proper sign boards and Braille system will be there,” she said.
According to the census report, J&K has a 3.60 lakh differently-abled individuals out of which 2.8 lakh are visually impaired, 38000 physically handicapped, 17000 have speech disabilities and 13000 have hearing disabilities. The state government had identified 30,237 children with special needs (CWSN) in 2016-2017 out of which it said 24,363 are enrolled in government schools.