Special-needs schools an overlooked priority in northern India
By Khurram Rasool
Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir India:
At a time when private schools have mushroomed throughout Kashmir in general and Srinagar in particular, much-needed special schools are few and far between. Despite spending heavily on the education sector in Jammu and Kashmir, the state government has been criticized for failing to provide basic education facilities for special-needs children in the valley.
According to the Disability Act, the Government has to guarantee both rehabilitation and education to the children with disabilities. While the act is said to be in force in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, no ruling government has as yet implemented the act. The state government has remained passive when it comes to the rights of specially-abled people, according to Javed Ahmed Tak, Chairman of ‘Helpline’, an NGO working for the welfare of the disabled.
“There are only 7 special schools in the whole of Kashmir. Srinagar has the maximum number of special schools in valley, i.e. 5. Both Baramulla and Anantnag have separate but single special schools. And interestingly all these special schools are run by the Private NGO’s. Not even a single special schools is government-run, which shows the discriminatory attitude of Government towards the specially-abled population,” Tak told FreePressers.
Reports say that the population of specially-abled people in the valley has increased to 900,000, of which 100,000 are children. However, the government has time and again quoted the 2001 census figures. As per the census carried out in 2001, 350,000 are suffering from different types of disabilities of whom 45,000 are children between the ages of 4 to 14.
One in ten children around the world cope with some kind of disability, with most of them living in developing countries like India, according to Tak’s researchers. In May 2012, in a survey of the Anantnag district, they found that the actual number was much more than the official statistics.
“We were shocked to see the finding. It was found that 22,000 people were disabled in one way or the other in just 5 blocks of district Anantnag,” he said.
The lack of special schools in the valley is believed by many to be the prime reason why such children don’t develop the skills needed to become self –sufficient. Tak claims that Jammu and Kashmir have the highest percentage of blind population of India. Irrespective of the fact, there is only one school exclusively meant for blind children in the valley which was found to be lacking in necessary facilities.
“The most worrisome part is that all these specially schools don’t cater to multiple disabilities. They either cater to intellectual disabilities or for learning disability or for dumb and deaf. What I want to say is that Kashmir actually does not have a single special school in real sense,” Tak said.