72% of children with disabilities in the group of 0 to 5 years out of school: Unesco

NEW DELHI: painting a grim picture of inclusive education, a Unesco The report says that 72% of children with disabilities (CWD) between the age group of 0 to 5 years never received a child education, while only 61% of children between 5 and 19 years old attended any educational institution.

The Report on the Status of Education for India 2019: Children with Disabilities, which was published on Wednesday, further reveals that, year after year, there has been a steady decrease in the number of CWDs at all levels of schooling, with in higher levels

In its analysis of the educational situation for CWDs, the report highlights that only 61% of children between 5 and 19 years old attended an educational institution with a school education, compared to the overall figure of 71%. According to the report, up to 7% of patients with CWD never attended any educational institution.

A data analysis between 2014 and 2017 also shows that the total enrollment of CWDs falls with each successive level of schooling. For example, between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the CWD number at the primary level was reduced from 15.67.633 to 13.52.162. And, as the school level increases, the number of CWD also decreases significantly. While there were 13.52 CWD crore in the elementary classes in 2016-17, the number of these children in upper secondary school was only 62,649 in the same year.

One of the most disturbing trends identified in the report is that as of 2014, 0.6 million CWD aged between 6 and 13 did not attend school. This translates into 28% of extracurricular CWDs, which is much higher than the national average of 2.97%. The document also highlights the 2011 India Census, which showed that 1,00,799 CWDs under 14 were hired as primary workers and 98,226 were marginal workers from three to six months a year.

While the barrier-free school environment is a key requirement for inclusive education, the report cites an access audit in 500 schools in 16 states of India to reveal that due to lack of experience and poor understanding of access standards between construction staff and school administration, school infrastructure was often fraught with barriers and was unsafe for CWDs. The audit was conducted by Samarthyam, an NGO, with the support of the Department of International Development of the United Kingdom between 2011 and 2014.

This hampered CWDs' access to, and use of, classrooms, playgrounds, libraries, drinking water units, toilets, mid-day meal areas, etc. Aggregate statistics from various government sources, the Unesco report also underscores that just 22.44% of schools had disabled-friendly toilets as of 2016-17.

Another area of ​​concern mentioned has been the gender disparity in the availability of assistive devices, a primary requirement that makes school education for people with disabilities significant. The report notes that despite large-scale production and distribution, the availability of aids, appliances and rehabilitation tends to be concentrated in urban areas. In addition, many of the aids and devices distributed by the government and NGOs in the camps, etc., are abandoned because they are not adequate or of low quality.

The report has made a recommendation of 10 points, which includes an amendment to the RTE Law to better align with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the establishment of a coordination mechanism under the MHRD for the effective convergence of all CWD education programs; and Ensuring a specific and adequate financial allocation in education budgets to meet the learning needs of people with disabilities.