Friday, December 25, 2009

Private schools in India will be mandated to reserve seats for children with disabilities

From DNA India:

MUMBAI, India -- All private schools will have to reserve seats for children with disability because the Centre will amend the rules in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, to widen the definition of disabled children.

The cabinet on Dec. 24 decided to make specific provisions for disabled children, including those with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and multiple disabilities.

Disabled children, according to the present law, are those defined under the Person with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection and Full Participation) Act, 1996.

They are mainly the blind, people with low vision, those who have been cured of leprosy, those with hearing impairment, or locomotor disability, and those who are mentally retarded or have mental illness.

The amendment will treat children with disabilities as defined in the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999. Such children will now have special rights to free and compulsory elementary education till the age of 14. Also, they will be categorised as 'children belonging to disadvantaged group'.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, was enacted by the Parliament to provide free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14.

After receiving the president's assent, the Act was published in the Gazette of India on August, 27, 2009. The School Education and Literacy department, however, received representations from various organisations working for the welfare of disabled children seeking a change of the legislation that did not specifically talk about such children.

Mumbai schools gave a thumbs-up to the Centre's decision. "It is a good and bad news," Swati Popat, director of Podar Jumbo Kids, said. "What if the schools reserve seats for disabled children and they are not well equipped to deal with them? The government should ensure that schools are well equipped."

A mother of an autistic child, Siddharth, said several schools refused her child admission. "Ultimately he got admission in Podar Jumbo Kids," she said. "For many parents like me it is a traumatic experience trying to get our children admitted to schools. The government policy has definitely come as a relief."