50% schools in state lack toilets for disabled students, a fifth lack ramps
Inclusion of children with special needs in schools across the state still has a long way to go, reveals the data collected under the District Information System for Education (DISE) 2014-2015.
According to the data which is collected from all schools across the country every year, the 2014-2015 academic year had 3,33,498 children with special needs enrolled in class I to XII in over a lakh schools in the state. The numbers is down from last year's 3,47,424. The ten categories of disabilities identified in the data include visual, speech or hearing impairment, autism, learning disabilities, physical disabilities etc.
The data also shows that more than half the schools in the state are not equipped with toilets for children with special needs. Out of the 1.06 lakh schools only 41,890 schools have a toilet which is disable friendly. Mumbai, which consists of two districts has 1,818 schools out of the total 4,060 have such toilets.
Ramps for children with special needs, which is one of the eleven parameters required to be fulfilled under the Right to Education Act, 2009, too is missing from several schools. As many as 18,182 schools in the state do not have a ramp. Of these, 461 schools are in the city of Mumbai.
Experts feel these are mandatory things that all schools must have in place. "There is a mandate that schools must admit children with special needs according to their location. Once there is even a single such child in school, there could be a wheelchair. This means that schools must have ramps and toilets which are modified to suit the needs of these children," said Rekha Vijaykar, Director, ADAPT - Able Disable All People Together.
Officials said that government is doing their bit. "According to the norms prescribed by the Right to Education Act, schools are trying to fulfil infrastructure norms as and when they can. The state is also providing funding for schools which require aid," said P R Pawar, joint director, Maharashtra Prathamik Shikshan Parishad.
The Right to Education Act of 2009 calls for all inclusion of children with special needs in regular schools. "There needs to be an overall awareness about various disabilities. The state should look at each student and empower them with better environment, safety and security. When this is done without discrimination, only then will students with special needs get a chance at equal opportunities," said psychiatrist, Dr Harish Shetty.