For Bandra resident Pushpa Moghul, take her 12-year-old daughter Esha, who suffers from spastic paraplegia, to school is not difficult as she studies at an institution that has many disabled-friendly facilities.
However, other kids are not so lucky. Malad resident Manish Sharma, who has an 11-year-old son suffering from cerebral palsy, has failed to admit him in a school. "Aryan can't even sit. So, schools refuse to admit him, citing lack of special teacher. They also don't allow me or my wife Rekha to sit in the class. Therefore, we are just trying to provide him knowledge in whatever way possible," says Sharma, who works with a private company.
The Right to Education (RTE) Act mandates every child in India, including those physically and mentally challenged, to get free and compulsory education up to the age of 14. However, even after four years of the Act coming into effect, majority of the schools are still lacking infrastructure and facilities for special kids.
Not only this, more than 31% schools in Maharashtra are not equipped with ramps, a facility listed under 10 most basic infrastructure norms under the RTE Act, reveals the latest District Information System for Education (DISE) report. The report covers 1.05 lakh schools across state. Apart from ramps, school building, drinking water, separate toilets for girls and boys, one teacher per classroom, boundary wall, playground, shed for kitchen and office-cum-store-cum-head mistress room are the other indicators.
The report points out that enrolment of children with special needs in schools across the state has increased from 2.95 lakh to 2.34 lakh within a year.
The report also reveals that only one out of five schools (20,611 in number) in the state are able to provide some facilities like wheel chair, braille books, hearing aid, crutches or calipers, without which a special need child is unable to study.
This is despite the fact that the deadline to implement the RTE Act ended in March 2013 and parameters with regard to the quality of education, learning environment, overall development of the children are yet to be talked about and assessed.
In its Wednesday edition, dna has highlighted the poor state of schools in Maharashtra as revealed in the DISE report. It said that only 22% of schools in the state fulfil all 10 basic infra norms.
Varsha Hooja, chief executive officer of ADAPT, says: "Access to schools is not limited to ramps. Approach roads and footpath leading to schools also need to be in good condition. Unfortunately, the approach roads are pathetic and taking kids to schools turns out to be cumbersome for parents." Hooja adds that these kids also need other facilities such as disabled-friendly toilets.
While metro cities like Mumbai do have a few special schools, kids living in small cities and villages are not so lucky and thus they are still out of schools. At least 12 children in and around Karjat, whose parents were hoping to get a special school in the area, were left hopeless as the NGO working for them failed to get 40 children, a must for registration as a school.
School education and sports minister Rajendra Darda was unavailable for comments.