Social Jurist, a Civil Rights Group (CRG) has filed this petition in public interest to highlight the plight of thousands of students with disabilities and particularly those suffering from visual impairment, hearing impairment and mental retardation studying in Delhi Government schools and MCD schools. The petitioner has highlighted that the schools are without trained teachers including teachers qualified in sign language and/or Braille. The authorities have failed to provide a barrier free environment in these schools. The special books and equipments needed for the education of the students with disabilities are also not being provided to them by the schools. It is submitted by the petitioner that this inaction on the part of the respondents results in violation of fundamental rights guaranteed to such students under Articles 14, 15, 21 and 21-A of the Constitution of India. It is contended that there is also a violation of the provisions of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
Reference is also made to UN Convention on the Rights of Child (1989), Salamancha Statement (UNESCO, 1994) and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008). The Government of NCT of Delhi runs about 1000 schools whereas Municipal Corporation of Delhi runs about 1800 schools in Delhi. About 12 lakhs students study in Delhi Government schools whereas around 10 lakhs students study in MCD run schools. Besides these schools, there are schools run by NDMC and Delhi Cantonment Board. The petitioner has alleged that the schools are totally unequipped to teach the differently abled students. It is alleged that the absence of specially trained teachers for the students suffering from disabilities and particularly those suffering from visual impairment, hearing impairment and mental retardation has resulted in early drop outs from the schools. It is submitted that respondents are constitutionally and statutorily obliged to ensure that all the children with disabilities are not only brought within the mainstream school system but also to provide them with all requisite educational environment and facilities including teachers qualified in sign language and/or Braille, so that they acquire necessary educational skills. By failing to do so, the respondents are committing serious violation of the human rights of the children with disabilities.
On the request of the learned counsel for the petitioner, National Council for Education, Research and Training (NCERT) and National Council for Teachers Education (NCTE) were impleaded as respondents. Certain other institutions specialized in running the schools for disabled children were also impleaded as respondents. The Government of NCT of Delhi has constituted the committees for improving the conditions in the schools for children with special needs. NCERT has also placed on record a note titled ?Road Map to Providing Education to Children with Special Needs?. The note also indicates the list of institutes in Delhi and other parts of the country which impart training for teaching children with special needs. On the direction of the Court, a further comprehensive note suggesting the mode of improvement in education of disabled children in NCTE of Delhi has been filed by NCERT. The note filed by NCERT reveals that as per Census 2001, about 2% of the total population constitutes persons with disabilities. The National Curriculum Framework on School Education (NCF-2005) by the NCERT has recommended making the curriculum flexible and appropriate to accommodate the diversity of school children including those with disability in both cognitive and non-cognitive areas.
The National Focus Group (NFG) of NCERT has emphasized that all children with disabilities have the right to and should be educated in general schools along with their non-disabled counterparts. It is pointed out that in November, 2005, the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, has devised The National Action Plan for Inclusion in Education of Children and Youth with Disabilities (IECYD) developed by emphasizing the inclusion of children and young persons with disabilities in all general educational settings (the Inclusive Education System) from Early Childhood to Higher Education. The goal of the Action Plan is- "to ensure the inclusion of children and youth with disabilities in all available general educational settings, by providing them with a learning environment that is available, accessible, affordable and appropriate".
Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), financial support for inclusion of children with disabilities in general schools at the elementary level @ Rs.1,200/- per child with special needs per annum has been provided. The Ministry of HDR, Government of India, has also funded another Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) of Inclusive Education of the Disabled at Secondary State Children (IEDSS) which is envisaged to enable all children and young persons with disabilities to have access to secondary education and to improve their enrolment, retention and achievement in the general education system. This IEDSS Scheme aims to enable all students with disabilities completing eight years of elementary schooling an opportunity to complete four years of secondary schooling in an inclusive and enabling environment and to provide educational opportunities and facilities to students with disabilities in the general education system at the secondary level. The scheme covers all children of age 14+ passing out of elementary schools and studying in secondary stage in Government, local body and Government-aided-schools, with one or more disabilities as defined under the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 and the National Trust Act, 1999 in the age group of 14+ to 18+ (classes IX to XII). Some important components of the scheme are that it is proposed to provide assistance to States / Union Territories / Autonomous Bodies @Rs.3,000/- per disabled child per annum for certain specified components described therein, including stipend @ Rs.200/- per month for girl child at the secondary level to encourage their participation upto senior secondary level. The scheme also envisages other support like adaptations in Examination procedures etc. Our attention is also drawn to certain schemes and funds sponsored by the Delhi Government to promote inclusion of children with disabilities in its schools under SSA, YUVA and BaLA (Building as Learning Aid) through free textbooks including Braille books, required aid and appliances uniform subsidy of Rs.500/-, improved school buildings, establishment of resource centres, teacher training under SSA etc. The Department of Education has identified about 10065 differently abled children, out of which, 7694 have been assessed on the basis of check list provided by the SCERT and about 2824 have been recommended for aid/appliances. There are certain other fund allocations provided by Department of Education for transport allowance, reader allowance, escort allowance etc.
NCERT has suggested the following imperative steps needed for further uniform norms and standards and providing facilities in schools for children with special needs:
"1. Mapping Identifying CWSN age wise, class wise and gender wise in different districts block and cluster-wise. Placement in neighbouring schools and zero rejection admission policy to be uniformly applied to all Schools, both Govt. and Govt.-aided. Fresh assessment of requirements for types of books, appliances and other material.
2. Improving Infrastructure and Support System
Wooden ramps to be provided in schools. At least ground floor to be made accessible. Removing infrastructural barriers-windows not opening inside, playground/inside roads made barrier free, etc. Resource rooms to be set up initially for clusters of schools.
Ramps in schools to be made in pahses-Percentage of schools to be covered every years. Stairs to have support system. Disabled friendly toilets in all schools. No child with disabilities should be asked to produce certificates either for admission, examination, getting support facilities / scholarships etc. Reject the policy of failing students vis-?-vis enabling each child to overcome perceived difficulties.
3. Upgrading Human Resources and Management of Curricular Aspects Morning Assembly and functions to include ALL children. Orientation programmes for different categories of administrators. Provision of resource rooms and equipment for the resource rooms in one school per block/urban cluster. Appointment of Special Educators: Special Educators will be appointed in the ratio 1:5. Ideally every school where disabled children are enrolled should have the services of at least one special teacher. If the number of children are less, this teacher could also work for other schools in the cluster. Creating a set of resource persons at district level. Special classes to be organized in schools ONLY to start with. Flexibility in evaluation and exam rules and regulations.
Preparation of supplementary learning materials for MR, HI and slow learners. Appointment of special teachers and counselors in schools. ETE and NTT syllabus to be reviewed and revised from viewpoint of inclusion. Creating network of special and general schools. Setting up forums for redressal of parent's grievances. Crash programme for all general teachers in classroom management, delivery system and teaching strategies through DIETs. Revamping in-service teacher training programsmes. Volunteer groups of teachers to be created in all districts. Multidisciplinary Resource Teams (MRT) to be established in all districts to include Para medical professionals, psychologists and counselors, school administrators, general and special teachers, Special Education and rehabilitation experts, parents and care givers.
4. Public Awareness and Sensitization Details of Special schools and trained special teachers to be put on website (district wise) to be used by schools as resources. These should also be advertised in electronic media, Bill-boards and cinema halls. Citizens to be requested to extend all sorts of help. Web portals and online interaction to be created. Wide use of ICT in education to be promoted. More incentives/awards/certification to be promoted."
A list of aids, appliances and materials required at various levels is also attached to the note submitted by NCERT. Learned counsel appearing for the petitioner has brought to our notice an enactment passed by the Goa Government in 2003. This Act contains comprehensive provisions to protect, promote and preserve the basic interests of child and to create a society that is found to be child friendly. The enactment deals with various aspects like education, health and nutrition, children's home, child labour, etc. and also makes stringent provisions relating to child sexual trafficking and other abuses of the children and provides penalties for violations. The Government of NCT of Delhi may consider introducing an enactment on similar lines providing for the child rights. The Secretary (Education) who appeared before this Court has assured the Court that the Government of NCT of Delhi will ensure full implementation of the short term and long term measures as suggested by the NCERT. We direct the State Government to ensure full compliance with all short term measures on or before the 30th June, 2009 and the long term measures shall be implemented by the end of June, 2010.
We hereby constitute an Advisory Committee consisting of the following to advise the Government in all matters relating to providing education to children with disabilities in general/special schools:
i) Secretary (Education) shall be the Chairperson of the Committee;
ii) Director, SCERT;
iii) Member Secretary of NCTE or his nominee;
iv) Nominee of Rehabilitation Council of India;
v) Director, National Association of Blinds;
vi) President, Delhi Society for Mental Retarded.
vii) Principal, Rajkiya Lady Noise Mook Badhir Madhyamik Vidyalaya;
viii) In-charge of IEDC Cell (Dept. of Education) or his nominee;
ix) Additional Commissioner (Education), MCD or his nominee;
x) Secretary, NDMC or his nominee;
xi) Secretary, Delhi Cantonment Board or his nominee; and
xii) Mr. Ashok Aggarwal, Advocate.
We also constitute a Monitoring Committee under the Chairmanship of Secretary (Education), Government of NCT of Delhi including the following to supervise, monitor and ensure implementation of the short term and long term measures suggested by NCERT:
i) Secretary (Education), GNCTD, as Chairman;
ii) Chief Secretary, Persons with Disabilities;
iii) Member Secretary of NCTE or his nominee;
iv) Nominee of Rehabilitation Council of India;
v) Additional Commissioner (Education), MCD or his nominee;
vi) Secretary, NDMC or his nominee;
vii) Secretary, Delhi Cantonment Board or his nominee.
It will be open for the Secretary (Education) to adopt any other person as member of the Advisory Committee and/or Monitoring Committee. The Secretary (Education) will file an action taken report to this Court within 12 weeks.
Adjourned to 20th May, 2009. Copy of this order may be sent to all the authorities and/or members of the committees constituted by us.
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