Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Campaign in China to help disabled people become teachers

From China Daily:

BEIJING - A letter urging the authorities to eliminate discrimination preventing disabled people becoming teachers was submitted to the Ministry of Education on Sept. 9, the day before the country's 27th annual celebration for teachers.

"I always dreamed of being a teacher, but the current rules in many provinces have shut the door on the career," said Yang Renliang, one of the initiators of the campaign.

The 24-year-old student graduated from Guizhou University last year with a bachelor degree in English, but was refused a teaching position by many schools because of his vision impairment.

Wang Jiang, a high school substitute teacher from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, said he has suffered discrimination throughout his career for more than ten years because of physical disabilities caused by infantile paralysis.

"I have less chances than my peers to win professional titles or to get promotion. And even though I have worked hard for years, I still have no official employment letter," said Wang, one of 588 disabled people who made the appeal.

Wang said when he first became a teacher in 1996 there were few obstacles to candidates with physical disabilities. But things changed after the Ministry of Education implemented a new regulation in 2000 allowing local authorities to establish rules for teachers' qualifications based on a person's physical condition.

According to research conducted by Yang Renliang and his supporters, more than 20 provinces or municipalities, including Beijing, Anhui and Fujian, have similar regulations concerning physical appearance, sight, hearing and mental health that discriminate against people with disabilities.

Huang Zhen, a law professor at Central University of Finance and Economics, said some local education authorities or institutions might be breaking, or at least going against the spirit of, the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons.

"Teaching requires mental ability and devotion. Although some people might be physically challenged, they can still be good teachers," Huang said.

"Some of them may even have an edge because they are usually caring for others and have a passion for the career."

Discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS is another issue pointed out in the letter.

In the past two years, China has seen three legal cases that involved discrimination in employment, all related to the recruitment of teachers.

The letter said that the country should set up a national standard for teachers' qualifications that conforms to the current laws guaranteeing the rights of disabled people.

The campaign's initiators have received much support from the public, but they are still waiting for an official response from the ministry, a source close to them said.