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HOME BASED EDUCATION : A RIGHT FOR CHILDREN WITH SEVERE ANDMULTIPLE DISABILITIES? : A CRTIQUEEducation a Fundamental RightAll Indian children from the ages of 6 to 14 have the right to free and Compulsoryeducation. In 2002, elementary education was made a fundamental right in ourcountry. The right to free and compulsory education between the ages of 6to 14is a fundamental right in our country. This right is inscribed under Article 21(A) ofthe Constitution of India.Article 21 A of the Constitution says;“The States shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the ageof six to fourteen (6-14) years in the manner as the State may by Law, determine”There are three main features of Fundamental Right to Education in India. a. All children between the age of 6 and 14 years shall receive free and compulsory education. b. The Government of India and the State Governments will ensure availability of schools with appropriate facilities necessary to impart education in all parts of the country. c. All parents must send their children between the ages of 6 and 14 years to school.Children with disabilities including children with very high support needs areequal holders of this fundamental right. Yet today, through proposedamendments of RTE Act 2009, this fundamental right of the child is being watereddown and instead of the school, the home is being offered as a legitimate,alternative option for the education of this child.We believe that this would be a violation of right of the child to legitimate qualityeducation. We request the government of India, the MHRD and members of theParliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource development to re-assess the proposed amendment in the light of the human rights of the childrather than the requirements of an educational system that is unable to makelegitimate space for the child.
The HistoryIn 2009 the Government of India passed the ‘Right Of Children to Free andCompulsory Education Act 2009’.This is the Act that translates the vision of thefundamental right to education into reality. The RTE Act did not include childrenwith disabilities specifically in the disadvantaged groups, even though nationalstudies show that children with disabilities are the largest group of out of schoolchildren. ( IMRB) It is also well known that children with disabilities are overrepresented amongst the poorest of the poor in any country. After protests from the disability sector the Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh gave an assurance that the Act will be amended to include children with disabilities in the disadvantaged groups. The 2010 RTE Amendment Bill • Defines the child with disabilities and makes a specific mention of the child with severe disability under the National trust Act, 1999, under the definition of the child. (Annexure 1) • includes the child in the definition of the ‘disadvantaged’ groups More recently we have heard that there is another amendment to the Rightof Children to free and Compulsary Education Act 2009. This comes ( we think)as a result of a recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee onHuman resource Development which considered the amendments to the RTEAct and have presented a report on June 2010.This report gives some very important and forward looking recommendationsto the RTE in relation to children with disabilities.(2) However, it alsounfortunately takes a stand on the issue of Compulsory education for childrenwith severe and multiple disabilities. It says“Another issue before the Committee was the aspect of compulsory education forchildren with severe or multiple disabilities who may not be in a position to attendschool. The Committee understands that children with multiple disabilities need tobe part of the compulsory education process. However, there may be cases wherein such a situation, a view needs to be taken about the viability of invoking thecomponent of compulsory education in schools. In this connection, the Committee
would like to point out that under SSA, 75,099 children with multiple disabilitiesare being provided education in regular schools. This has been made possible bythese children being first provided some school preparation programmes beforebeing mainstreamed in regular schools. The Committee understands that thestrategy of Home Based Education under SSA is at present being evaluated. TheCommittee is of the view that this strategy needs to be vigorously pursued forchildren in the 0-6 years age-group for Early Intervention and School Readinessfollowed by their induction in the mainstream schools. The Committee, therefore,believes that elementary education should not be made compulsory for childrenwith severe or multiple disabilities and the relevant provision in the Act mayaccordingly be modified. (Para 4.12)”As a result of this recommendation we believe a new amendment has now beenadded to the Act. This amendment gives children with severe and multipledisabilities the choice of school or home based education.What is home based education?The practice of home based education was initiated by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyanas a “pathway to Inclusion”. The SSA “adopted a zero rejection policy for allchildren’. In order to fulfil this zero rejection policy it follows a “multi- optionmodel for children with disabilities.“This means that no child having special needs should be deprived of the right toeducation and taught in an environment, which is best, suited to his/her learningneeds. These include special schools, EGS, AIE or even home-based education.”“Generally home-based education is defined as the education of children withsevere intellectual/physical disabilities, who can be educated in the combinationof home-based and alternate educational settings to enable them to achieveindependent living skills. Home-based education aims at school preparedness andpreparation for life. Alternate educational settings provide opportunities forlearning of social skills, vocational skills and implementation of life skills.”(Discovering New Paths To inclusion; A documentation of Home based practises for CWSN inSSA July 2006)
It felt that“Experiences of programmes like DPEP and various research findings have shownthat inclusion is best determined by the individual needs of the child. Mostchildren with special needs can be enrolled and retained in regular schools ifadequate resource support is provided to them, whereas there are others whomight have to be provided some kind of pre-integration programmes, before theycan be mainstreamed in a classroom.There might also be still some CWSN with severe profound disabilities, who wouldrequire an educational programme and intensive specialized support completelybeyond the purview and scope of a formal school in the current situation.”It is these children who have been the recipients of home based education underthe SSA since the early 20th century in our country.The aims of home based education as per the SSA document “ Discovering NewPaths To inclusion; A documentation of Home based practises for CWSN in SSAJuly 2006“Recent surveys and studies have also shown that a large proportion of CWSN areout-of-school, owing to the severe nature of their disabilities, which at this pointin time might not be accommodated in a regular classroom setting. There arechildren who, at some point in their lives, may need a special educationprogramme that is completely outside the purview of the regular classroom. Hereare the reasons: l • Some disabled children need highly specialized skills taught by specially trained teachers • Some disabled children might never respond to the demands of an academic curriculum and will require alternatives l • Some disabled children could participate in an academic curriculum but would require an inordinate amount of time and attention from a regular
class teacher, such that it would be inequitable for the other children in the class • Some disabled children need the support of a peer group that is more like they are, rather than being pushed out into the “mainstream” • Some disabled children might experience school failure without a special education curriculum tailored to their needs. • Some disabled children have greater opportunities to success in an alternative setting because there is a greater emphasis on parental partnerships, parental cooperation, and active parental participation in the education of the child. • Some disabled children might not succeed in a regular classroom, as they might not respond to the dictates of a standardized curriculum.While it has meant many things,, home based education as it has been practicedin India, has never meant a child getting educational inputs five days a week alongwith all the other entitlements that children in schools have. For example, in mostinstances the child in home based education has not had the privilege of the legalentitlement of the midday meal. This programJust as the SSA has never kept any records of the dropouts amongst children withdisabilities it has never reported on the number of children with severe profounddisabilities who have been mainstreamed after being in home based education.Is Home based education in the best interest of the Child?While the government of India seems to feel that home based education as anlegal option for elementary education is in the best interest of the child, thereare some of us who feel it is not. Our reasons are as follows; 1. Home based habilitation strategies for children, support and information to parents, affirmative action for the very young child with disabilities are
extremely invaluable strategies. The strategy of home based education can be used as an excellent strategy for building abilities for the child and the family. However, it should not become the only option for the education of the child, particularly a child with high support needs.2. Such an option is likely to foster, great social isolation, exclusion from community and peers, devalue the child. It is likely to exclude the child from many other entitlements and also to expose the child to a lack of protection that social isolation brings. The quality of life of any child will be seriously compromised if we isolate them in the home.3. The label of severe and profound disability on a child is a deeply questionable practice in our country. Till date we have labeled children on the basis of medical parameters that have been questioned consistently.4. The new UN Convention On the Right of persons With Disabilities that India has ratified talks of a social model of disability. We are aware today from our practice and from international understanding that a child may be unable to participate fully in education…because of many reasons other than high levels of impairment. A girl child with disability will not have the same chances even of survival that a boy has!5. There are many children who are today labeled as being severe and profound disabilities who can with some support study within the system even as it is today. If a legal option for home based education is given to this child many of them will be ‘pushed out’ of the system. They will be pushed out of the system because of the inequitable relationship that parents and communities have with the education system. The will be pushed out because our system has just begun to accept that the child with disabilities will also be a part of it. If today we legitimize home based education, we will roll back in time and just strengthen the push our factors for all children who are vulnerable within the system.6. Children with disabilities are the largest group of out of school children in our country today. It is true that the demand for their equitable and
legitimate education has not risen even within communities and families in our country. We know that there are many families that still do not believe that their child is educable. Apart from our social attitudes, the truth is that our systems for early childhood care, education and protection and our rehabilitation system have not reached out to this child and family. Our focus has to be on supporting the child and the family to get to school not to leave the child at home.7. To argue that any child is so impaired that they cannot reach a school or participate in school life is putting the blame on the child. A child does not choose to be severely impaired or have HIV , or live on the streets. An inclusive system is one that is willing to stretch and bend for the child. This should not mean it is content with providing the lowest common denominator for any child.8. It is true that inclusion is going to require systemic change. We need changes in curriculums and the ways in which we transact this curriculum, teacher training flexibility in administration.The RTE is the Act that tells us how the fundamental right to education will be implemented in our country. We have seen that it has been able to make fundamental systemic changes in the education scenario of our country. It has put an end to non formal education at the elementary level for all children. It has moved from the examination system to comprehensive and continuous evaluation. Then our question would be whether the fundamental systemic change we envisage for the child with severe disabilities is home based education?9. Many of us who have worked with children with very high support needs have run small centres and special schools? Many of these centres and schools have been non-formal in nature. While this should not continue such centres have proved that children with very high support needs can come out of their homes and develop their abilities and be a part of society. Why is it that either the child is in a general school or in the home?
10. The Parliamentary Standing Committee observed that there are very few children with multiple disabilities in the general schools in our country. “the Committee would like to point out that under SSA, 75,099 children with multiple disabilities are being provided education in regular schools.” The question we need to ask here is why? Are children with multiple disabilities not in school because they cannot be in schools? Or is it that we have just not tried hard enough? Our understanding is that it is the latter. There has been no real ‘abhiyan’ to get the child with severe and multiple disabilities in schools and to make schools more inclusive for this child.11. Our understanding of families is that most parents would want their children to go out of the house and be with other children and learn and be included. However, today many are unwilling to make the effort of sending their child to the school because they fear the lack of security and safety of their child. They fear that their child will learn nothing in the system as it is today. They fear the humiliation that both they and their undergo once they touch the system. We need to change this rather than give an option of the home.For these and many other reasons we urge the Standing Committee andother decision makers to re-evaluate the legal option of home basededucation for children with severe and multiple disabilities in our country.We request that the fundamental right to education should not be watereddown for one set of children just because they have high support needs.