Although over 25 lakh school students in India are identified as Children with Special Needs (CwSNs), the government is yet to create the post of Special Educators (SEs) to cater to the needs of differently abled students, prompting a nationwide protest by teachers trained as special educators to be held on December 3 against education departments of all states.
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The Special Educators’ Forum of India (SEFI) has already submitted its charter of demands to the education departments of every state. SEFI is an organisation of special educators working under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). “According to the evaluation techniques for CWSNs chalked out by the SSA, the teacher teaching CwSNs is not only supposed to make them physically comfortable in class, but also change their teaching methods. Schools where such children are enrolled, teaching approach has to be tailormade. All this cannot be done by regular teachers, but special educators or therapists. Despite this, the government has not created a post of special educators or made mandatory for schools to appoint them,” said Kalpagiri Sreenu, convener of SEFI and a special educator from Telangana.
Kalpagiri said, “We have been reaching out to all state governments to take this initiative, however, in vain. Hence, on World Disabled Day on December 3, we will launch a nationwide protest.”
With inclusive education being given emphasis in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the SSA’s focus has been to ensure that every CWSN should be placed in neighbourhood schools. After conducting camps and assessing the nature of disability, the SSA has provided aids and appliances to cater to their needs. The CBSE has made appointment of special educators in regular schools mandatory since July 2015. Across the country, 25,13,492 students have been identified as CwSN, of which 3,22,647 CwSN are in Maharashtra. However, instead of special educators, regular teachers with ‘temporary’ training have been assigned to cater to them in Maharashtra, say SEFI activists. There are 17,686 such teachers in Maharashtra, reportedly trained for teaching CwSN.
Raj Bhartiya, a special educator and member of SEFI in Maharashtra, said, “There are round 20,910 special educators registered in SSA and 4,458 special educators under Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage scheme. These teachers are working on contractual basis. Meanwhile, regular teachers, who are not trained in special education, are teaching CwSN students. It is a shame that on one hand we promote inclusive education and on the other, we don’t care to cater to the needs of CwSN.”
When approached, B B Chavan, deputy director of school education in Mumbai, said, “There is no government policy on appointing special educators in schools for CwSNs. Some private schools do have special educators but that is their management’s call and the education department has nothing to do with it.”