Our nation is not behind any other nations in making laws and programmes for the development of the nation especially for mainstreaming the vulnerable sections of the society. The present day ingredients of developmental strategies such as Right based approach, people’s participation and bottom up planning are fundamentally part of any such initiatives by the state. But it is least concerned about the ground level preparation necessary for implementation, supervision and follow- up measures for rectifying the shortcomings.
All that prompted me to write is about the experience when I visited few schools in the rural villages of Gorakhpur district of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The main purpose of my visit was to discuss the possibility of involving the parents of children with disability in the School Management Committee (SMC) that Sarva Siksha Abhiyan envisaged to form and function to ensure quality education with the participation of the community.
I was not surprised to hear from the head of the school that SMC happens ‘only on paper ’and no other heads of the schools had a different story to present. They openly agreed all that the government wants to practice is ideal but practically difficult to implement. They say that it is known to the whole education department and neither the parents wish to bring about a change in the situation. It amused me to think of my purpose of visit to modify a system that does not exist at all. How can they include the people I want in a committee that is not functioning? Or what is the use including somebody as part of a committee that is not working for the real intent of its formation?
It was more interesting to see how children attend the class and attain their Right to Education. There was something to my amazement finding a single teacher ‘educating’ all the children from more than two classes (eg. Class one, two and three together). All the children were (in all the four Primary schools I visited) sitting on the floor together. Luckily the teacher could find a chair and table to keep the teaching aids (a chalk, stick, attendance register and a notebook). I did not discuss with the teachers the possibilities of Teaching Learning Materials for educating Children with Disabilities as it would be a fun for them rather than a matter of serious concern.
I also wanted to talk about making the school building accessible for Children with Disabilities and making the toilet accessible. Before that I decided to see the present design of the toilet. To worsen the situation none of the school had a toilet where a human being can enter and use. The squalid and dismal condition of such toilets would make a person curse the Creator for giving a biological need that necessitates privacy and proper way of disposal. Some of the toilets were incomplete construction without urinal for boys. Some of the toilets were locked for long time where creepers had covered whole structure.
Inclusive education, making barrier free environment for the Children with Disabilities, preparing teaching learning materials, making toilets with universally accessible design were my purpose of visit that I could not discuss with the teachers in the midst of the most wretched conditions children attend classes. It was depressing to see children sitting with blank expression on face, teachers ‘running’ the school and parents unaware or unmindful of the miserable days of their children and apathy of the education department that spend millions of rupees for basic infrastructure in the schools and quality education.