BANGALORE, December 3: Eight-year-old V. Manohar, who has cerebral palsy, is happiest when at school. He is a student of class 3 at the Government Kannada School, Old Byappanahalli.
His mother, Anjali B.M., says there has been a remarkable change in his motor abilities after two years of formal education. “Although he is mostly bound to the wheelchair, he now walks a few steps,” she says. But, Ms. Anjali’s only grouse is that her son has not seen much improvement academically. “He cannot even identify letters,” she says.
As per the evaluation techniques for children with special needs (CWSN) chalked out by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Manohar’s teacher is not only supposed to make him physically comfortable in class, but also change her teaching methods for his sake. Children with cerebral palsy should be taught at three levels — with concrete things or objects, through pictures and finally in the abstract. Teaching can be done in five steps — matching, sorting, identifying, naming and generalising.
Ask his mother if these guidelines are followed and she says: “There are some teaching aids in class meant just for him. But, he does not know how to use them. Even though the teacher pays attention to his needs, how much attention can she pay to him alone? After all there are 30 children in his class.”
There are 1.27 lakh CWSNs who have been enrolled in government and aided schools across the State this year. With inclusive education being given emphasis in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the SSA’s focus has been to ensure that every CWSN should be placed in neighbourhood schools. After conducting camps and assessing the nature of disability, the SSA has provided aids and appliances to cater to their needs. But officials and teachers working at the grassroots level say the inadequate number of trained teachers is a major challenge.
Earlier, each block had three inclusive education resource teachers (IERTs) and two outsourced staff trained as per the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) norms. But after the Ministry of Human Resource Development issued directions this year that staff who were not trained as per the RCI norms would not receive salary, the SSA had to relieve the IERTs and depute them to government schools as teachers. According to sources in the SSA, if any blocks are faced with shortage, they can hire IERTs.
In Karnataka, in 2012–13, there were 825 teachers who have completed B.Ed. in special education and were working in government and aided schools. In the same year, 1.47 lakh children were identified as CWSN, highlighting the inadequate number of trained teachers. Though an additional 6,000 teachers have undergone a 90-day training in special education, it involves only 12 days of contact training. Sources in the SSA said almost all teachers have undergone a three to six-day training in special education, which is only an introductory session on the needs of CWSNs.
Aftab Pasha, a 13-year-old at Government Urdu Model Primary School, is testimony to this inadequacy. A student of class 7, he has polio and is reportedly a slow learner. He can barely write his name and says he often does not understand what is going on in class. There are about 30 students in his class and his teacher admits that giving him special attention is a challenge.