Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Right to Education to cover all categories of disability

The human resource development (HRD) ministry has admitted that a section of the Right to Education (RTE) Act pertaining to “disadvantaged sections” will have to be changed as it does not cover all disabled children. According to the proposed amendment, the Act will now include children covered under the National Trust Act and any other law that deals with those suffering from mental as well as physical disorders.

This was reportedly conveyed by the HRD ministry to the prime minister’s office (PMO) recently. While the ministry was earlier planning to incorporate enabling provisions in the rules to be framed for the Act, it was later felt that rules alone would not suffice to meet the concerns of the disabled.

After being passed by Parliament in early August, the landmark legislation is now awaiting presidential consent. Indications are that the amendment will be moved later to ensure that all disabilities are covered under the Bill’s definition of “disability”.

Barely a week after the Act was passed, the prime minister’s office wrote to the HRD ministry asking it to ensure that the concerns of the disabled were addressed. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal assured both Parliament and the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) that all categories of disabled children would receive benefits under the RTE Act.

The RTE Act proposes free and compulsory education to all children aged between 6 and 14 years, making it binding on all public and private schools to reserve 25% of their seats for children from “disadvantaged sections”. Section 3 states that “disadvantaged sections” cover children with disabilities as specified under the Persons With Disabilities Act -- an Act that is not very comprehensive as it leaves out several disabilities like cerebral palsy, autism and other mental disorders.

The original Bill was at the centre of a row even before it was tabled in the Lok Sabha, with activists alleging that it deliberately excluded disabled children from its ambit. They claimed the Bill ignored the rights of disabled children by not providing for disabled-friendly facilities, not including “disability” within the definition of “disadvantaged sections”, and not including the mentally challenged within the definition of “disabled”. Activists say that where the Bill does define “disability”, it takes the meaning as given in the Disability Act 1995, which covers people with physical disabilities only.

Activists point out that India was one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in October 2007, which says: “State parties shall ensure that persons with disability are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education or from secondary education on the basis of disability.”


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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