Skip to main content

Children with disabilities: Partial progress in syncing national laws with UN requirements


Excerpts from the report “State of the Education Report for India 2019 Children with Disabilities”, prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai) and commissioned by UNESCO New Delhi:

The Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD) Act 2016 have helped create a comprehensive legal framework for inclusive education. However, there are a few ambiguities about where children with disabilities (CWDs) should study and who should teach them. Gaps remain in the form of appropriate norms and standards applicable to all educational institutions, services provided to CWDs, and the absence of a coordinated authority to enforce the norms and standards.
An analysis of the current situation indicates that an estimated 7.8 million children aged under 19 live with disabilities. National estimates of the proportion of population with disabilities is much lower than international estimates, leading to questions about the disability measures used in the Indian census, as will be discussed later in the report. Among 5 year olds with disabilities, three-fourths do not go to any educational institution. Nor do one-fourth of the CWD population aged between 5 and 19.
The number of children enrolled in school drops significantly with each successive level of schooling. There are fewer girls with disabilities in school than boys. The proportion of children with disabilities who are out of school is much higher than the overall proportion of out-of-school children at the national level. Thus, although the schemes and programmes have brought children with disabilities into schools, gaps remain.

The implementation of the RTE Act 2009 and the RPWD Act 2016 has started with the judiciary playing a key role in interpreting provisions and giving directions to the executive. However, the outcome is mixed due to lack of awareness of legal rights and entitlements of CWDs, lack of accessibility of grievance redressal mechanisms, and lack of a coordinated enforcement mechanism for implementation.
Even though the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) and the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) are taking measures to prepare teachers for inclusive education, there is a need for continued investment and flexible planning to address emerging issues and gaps in trained human resources.
The attitude of parents and teachers towards including CWDs in mainstream education is crucial to inclusive education. Development of inclusive practices requires flexible curricula and availability of appropriate resources. A variety of frameworks for curriculum design can be employed to develop a curriculum that is both universal and suitable to adaptations.
Accessible physical infrastructure, school processes, assistive technologies, information and communication technology (ICT) and devices are essential. However all these continue to remain challenges, hindering full participation of CWDs. Schoolbased assessment can help gauge the learning needs of diverse children and plan modifications in curriculum and instruction. Lack of assessment in schools can lead to high referrals for specialized assessment of learning disabilities (LDs), and inappropriate formal assessments can lead to inaccurate diagnosis, inflating the incidence of LD.

Early detection of developmental delays and timely intervention in early childhood are not yet widespread, due to infrastructural and capacity limitations at Anganwadis, local bodies responsible for early childhood development. Prevalent data systems require streamlining in order to improve availability, validity and reliability of data.
Governance-related issues such as poor provisioning for education of CWDs across educational settings, the problem of reach, disparities in access, and lack of effective coordination between different stakeholders persist, owing to multiple layers of functioning and the scale of the problem. Inadequate allocations, delays in releasing funds and underutilization of allocations remain key challenges in financing education for CWDs.
The 1989 UN Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) treaty are two international human rights treaties that have a direct bearing on the right to education of CWDs. Although the UNCRC does not specifically mention children with disabilities, the various provisions when read together supply grounds for governments to provide free and compulsory education to all children below 18 years and create education systems that are nondiscriminatory, equitable, accessible to all.
The landmark UNCRPD treaty enunciates the human rights of persons with disabilities, and includes substantive provisions related to education. It is also responsible for bringing inclusive education from a larger social justice perspective to centre stage in international discourses. India has ratified both treaties.

However, India has not signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on Rights of the Child, 2011 and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006, both of which lay down communication procedures. Hence, monitoring of implementation of treaty provisions happens only through submission of periodic reports to the treaty bodies by the state.
India has made partial progress in harmonizing its national laws with the requirements of UNCRPD. The provisions of the RPWD Act and the amended 2017 Mental Health Care Act (MHCA) are broadly in sync with UNCRPD in the context of education of CWDs. However, both the RTE Act and its amendment in 2012 fall short, as they do not include provisions relating to the core guiding principles of UNCRC (that are reiterated under UNCRPD).
The RTE Act makes no mention of specific educational needs and entitlements of children with disabilities, such as reasonable accommodation and access to assistive technologies, thus further widening the gap with UNCRPD. The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act (NTA), 1999, and the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) Act, 1992, are some other legislations that remain to be harmonized with UNCRPD, despite recommendations made by National Human Rights Commission. The Indian Constitution itself does not expressly prohibit discrimination against persons with disability, nor cites it as ground for affirmative action under Article 15, 15 (2).
All state RTE rules, with the exception of Gujarat and Uttarakhand, provide for safe transportation to and from school for children with disabilities. Karnataka and Kerala are the only two states whose RTE rules provide for assistive devices and reasonable accommodation. While most state rules entrust School Management Committees (SMCs) with the identification and enrolment of children with disabilities, and their participation in and completion of elementary education, they do not necessarily specify representation of their parents or guardians or that of the children themselves wherever student participation is provided for. Except Kerala, none of the state rules refer to special schools for children with disabilities in their RTE rules.
In 2016, the Government of India adopted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD) to bring into effect the provisions of the UNCRPD. The act adopts a human-rights-based approach that replaces the previous medical model. The committee that developed the act comprised government representatives, members from civil society and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs). This was consistent with the spirit of Article 4.3, UNCRPD, and in the Indian context, the first time that persons with disability were called upon to take decisions on matters that directly impacted their lives.
The two main areas of ambiguity:
Neighbourhood school, special school or home-based education? While the 2012 amendment to the RTE Act requires neighbourhood schools to provide education to CWDs, children with multiple disabilities and severe disabilities also have the right to opt for home-based education. The RPWD Act recognizes the right of a child with benchmark disabilities to education both in the neighbourhood school and a special school of their choice. In other words, all three types of schooling are legally endorsed without any parity in norms and standards between the formats.
Regular teachers, special teachers, resource teachers or volunteers? While the RTE Act provides only for regular teachers, courts have directed appointment of special educators, and the RCI Act requires appointment of special educators only, to teach children with disabilities.
Two key areas with gaps:
Absence of a legal framework specifying norms and standards aimed at meeting the specific needs of CWDs that is applicable across neighbourhood school, special school and home-based education formats.
Absence of a coordinated authority that can enforce the norms and standards across the multiple educational settings where children with disabilities can legally be studying.
At present, the enforcement mechanism under the RTE Act does not extend to special schools, while the enforcement mechanism under the RPWD Act is powerless against schools that do not adhere to its provisions, as the mandate to derecognize schools for noncompliance of norms and standards lies with the education authorities. These ambiguities and gaps severely impinge on the implementation and interpretation of the two legislations.

Click HERE for full report

Comments

TRENDING

This activist played a monumental role in cases related to environmental issues

By Ekansh Agarwal, Pooja Agarwal, Shubham Tripathi, Sachin Uttarwar, Himani Rathod*  Rohit Prajapati is an environmentalist and has set up a voluntary organization named Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, which is a voluntary organization. Rohit calls his organization a people's movement that constantly raises voices against different environmental issues. Rohit believes that environmental problems are not only constrained to preventing pollution and proper disposal of wastes but should be seen holistically. He believes that social activists can never work in isolation and must work with the community to pressure the authorities to take corrective actions, and the only way to work with the community is to raise the issues that benefit the community at large. Hence, he also tries to raise the issue of social importance along with environmental issues. When asked what he thinks about the current norms and regulations of CPCB and SPCB, he said that the existing standards and regulations are

Complaints of adverse impacts due to COVID vaccine should be settled efficiently

By Bharat Dogra  In recent weeks it has been proved beyond doubt that mass COVID vaccination among women and girls has led to a massive disruption of menstrual cycle and more particularly to excess bleeding among them. A scientific paper that has been widely cited in this context is titled ‘Invesigating trends in those who experience menstrual bleeding changes after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination’. This paper authored by Katherine M.N.Lee et al was published in ‘Science Advances’ dated 15 July, 2022. According to this survey, as many as 42% of those with regular menstrual cycle bled more heavily than usual. Earlier in March another paper in the International journal of Women’s Health written by Nadia Muhaidat had reportd tht 66 per cent of women had experienced menstrual abnormalities after vaccination. In September 2021 the British Medical Journal had proposed that a link between excessive bleeding and COVID vaccination was plausible, adding that such complaints are being increasingly receive

Endless wait for pension for India's 60 million unorganized sector senior citizens

By Bharat Dogra  The most important support needed by elderly persons is for regular and adequate pensions. Only about 10 per cent of senior citizens in India have access to regular and reasonable pensions. They are mostly those who have served in the civil government, armed forces and related parts of the formal sector. For the remaining over 90 per cent of senior citizens, pensions either do not exist, or else are irregular, uncertain or extremely inadequate. The pensions for this unorganized sector are provided mainly by the National Social Assistance Program or NSAP (and to a lesser extent by some other programs). Out of the nearly 82 million elderly citizens in this informal sector, this scheme of the Union Government manages to reach just about 22 million people. Many eligible and selected persons have been denied pension due to insistence on Aadhar and biometric recognition, various irregularities and other factors. Thus around 60 million elderly people are still waiting to ge

World appreciates Bangladesh’s relative stability amidst global inflation, Ukraine war

By Samina Akhter*  Due to the Ukraine-Russia war after the corona epidemic, the whole world is suffering from economic recession. In various countries of the world, the value of currency is falling, inflation is increasing. One country after another is going bankrupt. At that time, Bangladesh is slowly taking steps to understand the situation. After overcoming the crisis, Sheikh Hasina's country is running on a positive trend of economy. And the media of different countries of the world are praising this. World media is talking about Sheikh Hasina and her country. According to a report of Thailand's Bangkok Post, Bangladesh will not have a crisis like Sri Lanka. According to a report of the Financial Times of India, the economy of Bangladesh is stable even in the global recession. On the other hand, the report of The Express Tribune of Pakistan said to Pakistanis, learn from Sheikh Hasina. He is the pride of Bangladesh. The highlights of these reports are as follows: The crisis

Do or die? August revolution and India's ruling class: hard facts as seen by Dr Lohia

By Prem Singh  "Here is a mantra, a short one, that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is: 'Do or Die'. We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery. Every true Congressman or woman will join the struggle with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the country in bondage and slavery. Let that be your pledge." (Excerpt from Gandhiji's speech at the All-India Congress Committee meeting) Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia wrote a long letter to the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, on March 2, 1946. That letter is important and was appreciated by Gandhiji. The letter brings out the brutal and conspiratorial character of British imperialism. Lohia wrote that letter from jail. After playing an underground role for 21 months in the Quit India Movement, Lohia was arrested in Bombay on 10 May 1944. He was imprisoned first in Lahore F

Steve Otto strived to unite different trends of Communist camp, confronted dogmatism

By Harsh Thakor  One of my closest comrades Steve Otto, expired last week while sitting on the porch of his house. Some months ago, he lost his wife Cammy. He ran blogs ‘Ottos War Room’ and ‘Idiot Factor.’ I may not have personally met him but I don't have words to express my sense of loss at his demise and my gratitude for his support to my work. A writer who dipped his pen for service of the oppressed peoples. Few have ever been so supportive to me, giving such a platform to project my view. Such figures create avenues for young writers to blossom in the revolutionary movement. In hardest times, he helped me stand afloat. I deeply admire how he supported my writings on struggles in Punjab, Naxalbari, Maoism and progressive cultural activists, Hindi film actresses and actors, philosophers and swimming. Overall he was manifestation of the Marxist revolutionary as a spiritual being, revealing a subtle human touch. Steve portrayed why a Marxist or Maoist was creative. I recommend eve

GN Saibaba's book portrays how neo-fascism is penetrating India's parliamentary system

By Harsh Thakor  “Why Do You Fear Me So Much: Poems and Letters from Prison” by Professor G.N.Saibaba portrays the sheer inhumanity prevailing within prison walls in India, illustrating the barbaric jail practices. It is the best illustration of how genuine activists are falsely fabricated in India today ,with the judiciary virtually a tool or completely subservient to the ruling classes. The book portrays how neo-fascism is penetrating the parliamentary system at height unscaled, laws passed similar to colonial times. We get an insight into how spiritually the resolve of a political prisoner to combat fascism is further intensified within the confines of prison walls. The book illustrates the death defying courage of Professor Saibaba and his wife Vasantha Kumari in bearing the situation. It is the voice of all the oppressed people of India. A mascot for all revolutionary democrats confronting proto-fascism. Introduction In the Introduction Vasantha’s letter to Sai is published. H

Wickremesinghe should know: Sri Lanka has nothing to gain by declaring support to China

By NS Venkataraman*  There appears to be a unanimous view in Sri Lanka and other countries that appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as President of Sri Lanka is the best decision that has happened in the present turbulent time in Sri Lanka. Ranil Wickremesinghe has served as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka six times and he has not completed full term even once and is not generally recognised as an exceptional administrator. However, he has been recognised as a reliable and decent and least controversial person by popular view and that is perhaps why governance of Sri Lanka has been handed over to him. Except a few professional demonstrators in Sri Lanka, the country is, by and large, willing to support him if he would take appropriate policy decisions and implement them in a pragmatic way. This is a good situation as far as it goes. Obviously, the priority for Ranil Wickremesinghe is to retrieve Sri Lankan economy from the present mess, which implies that he should ensure tha

Presence of supremos in political parties does not allow young leaders to grow

By Sudhansu R Das  Democracy in India is not serving people well due to the absence of morally and intellectually strong leaders who can highlight the basic problems of the people with elaborate details. The majority of the opposition leaders as well as those who are ruling are too much obsessed with narrow caste, language, region, religion, ideology and turncoat politics to gain power; they spend less time to collect authentic information about issues like water scarcity, poor education, unemployment, price rise, food adulteration, corruption and lack of affordable quality health care facility etc which adversely affect human development in their own districts. Though the opposition leaders can’t make laws, they can contribute to formulate sound policies through powerful debates and public contact. First, the leaders should take up Padyatra to know people closely. The more they walk and live with people the more they will learn about people’s real problems. “Gandhi and Health @ 150&qu

Role of indigenous women in preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge

A report on a webinar on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on “Tribal Development: Policies and Challenges” organised by In-Minds Society and Anthro International: *** International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was observed in Srinagar on August 9. The theme for this year’s World Tribal Day was “The Role of Indigenous Women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge”. On the occasion, In-Minds Society and Anthro International organised a webinar entitled “Tribal Development: Policies and Challenges” in which Research Scholars, Professors, subject experts, students, civil society and indigenous people from different parts of the country participated. Speakers in the panel included Irfan Ali Banka, Dr. Abdul Khabir, Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, Dr. Javaid Rahi and CEO Anthro International. The role of indigenous women in preserving tribal culture, developing and promoting uses of natural products, integration of traditional knowledge and pra