Despite considerable achievements during a journey of seven decades of affirmative action in education, legacies of discrimination, marginalisation and denial are still enmeshed in the Indian social composition. Although equality is a fundamental right guaranteed in the Indian Constitution for every citizen of the country, yet there is inequality at every level. Our already divided society is also facing another kind of divide between ‘people with special needs’ and ‘people with no special needs’.
According to a survey, out of 700 million disabled persons of the world, approximately 10 percent of them are in India alone, making India home to a large population of people with various kinds of disabilities. Due to lack of awareness, education and social stigma (by schools, parents, teachers, students, community, decision makers, NGOs), a large number of people with disabilities are not able to join the mainstream for their development, are unaware of their rights and are either isolated, discarded, dumped or lead an undignified life without the support and services they need to be successful. This sector has also not received adequate attention from decision makers to design and develop pro-disabled policies at an early stage.
Understanding the seriousness of the issues and following UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Dehradun-based civil society organisation – Society For Inclusive Development (SFID) has taken the initiative to bridge this gap and undertaken a pilot model – Ham Saath Saath (We are Together), an inclusive schooling model for children with special needs.
One of India’s leading PSUs – ONGC, came forward and extended their support under their CSR framework to establish pilot project with Dehradun-based Green Field School (GFS).
“A pilot model is being set up at GFS to address this issue. Project Ham Saath Saath (HSS) will conduct survey and identify children with special needs who are not going or are denied admission in any normal school. They will be admitted in GFS,” said Dr. Anil Jaggi, Head SFID.
Dr. Jaggi goes on to say that, “We are thankful to ONGC, a leading Maharatna company for being sensitive towards this issue and extending their CSR support for such an important and essential project. During the last one month, we were able to register 20 plus children with various kinds of disabilities i.e. dyslexia, down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, ADHD, slow learner etc. Dedicated and trained special educators have been hired to handle them with compassion. Support staff like speech therapists, music and yoga teachers have also been hired to try different methodologies to handle such students and improve their learning skills.”
“Special resource rooms have been designed, software, sensory toys, interactive books, musical instruments are purchased for SFID to support the program for them,” informs Himani Rana, Special Educator for HSS project.
“We are so happy and thankful to SFID and ONGC for launching and supporting this project, where children are learning together with interest. We can see behaviour change in them,” said Mrs Meenkshi Garg, mother of Priyam, a child with low vision and a slow learner.
Many parents are coming and seeking admission in this project which will not only bring tangible change among children with special needs, but will also help parents to understand the issues of their own children,” said Himani Rana, Special Educator.
“This is a very unique project in the region, and we are happy that Green Field School is selected to run this pilot project,” said Ms. Reena, Principal, GFS.
“Under the HSS project, every child is welcomed and valued, regardless of ability or disability. It is an attitude which means the doors to the school, classroom and school activities are open for every child, and they are provided every opportunity to be included with their non-disabled peers, and every child is given the help she/he needs to learn,” signs off Dr. Anil Jaggi.