November 9, 2021


by: admin


Tags: Disability, education, Free, Island, learning, support


Categories: Special needs education

Studying assist, incapacity, and free training – The Island

By Ramya Kumar

Kuppi Talk stands for the democratization of education and educational spaces by dealing with questions of access, (in) equality, exclusion and marginalization in our education systems. In discussions with school principals / teachers, parents and students, this Kuppi Talk deals with the everyday forms of violence and exclusion of children with special needs in our schools and universities.

“I couldn’t concentrate or sit in one place, but this wasn’t recognized as a problem by my parents or teachers … when I got extreme the problem was recognized, that is, when I got violent … I was bored …. my accumulated frustration eventually jumped out as a cry for help. ”- Luck, college student

Lucky, a high performing student with special needs enrolled in a state university, recalled being subjected to humiliation, corporal punishment, and a three month suspension and eventually running away from home and ending up in a detention center. It was only there that Lucky’s potential was recognized by a visiting doctor who helped him return to school. “I got out of this system by accident, despite the stacked odds against me, but there are many, many children who don’t.”

Sri Lanka advocates inclusive education policies. According to UNESCO, inclusive education is “a process that addresses and responds to the diversity of needs of all learners”. This approach implies that pupils with special educational needs and / or disabilities must be supported in order to reach their learning potential. To this end, schools and universities should create conducive learning environments that meet the individual needs of children. In reality, however, around a third of children with disabilities in Sri Lanka never go to school and when they do, most are not recognized as in need of assistance.

Deepthi, a parent whose son has special learning needs, said, “Our education system assumes that all children are equal, and if not, something is wrong with them.” The Department of Education issues guidelines for schools to encourage parents to educate to involve their children. However, this approach has resulted in teachers transferring all responsibility to parents, especially mothers. “When I went to PTA meetings, the teachers made me feel [my son] is abnormal and I haven’t done my job. ”With teachers and school administrators failing to understand the problem, going to school becomes a toxic experience. “My child was separated from the others and often punished, but these measures did not solve the problem.”

As Lucky pointed out, our educational system lacks a mechanism to identify and support students with less obvious learning problems. Instead, these children are punished and even beaten for disorderly behavior. Even when identified, there is no organized system of assessment and follow-up, which means that parents who often do not understand the problem will have to deal with it on their own, resulting in poor academic performance and low self-esteem in these students. On the flip side, high performing students with exceptional ability are forced to follow the current system of memorization, become bored and disinterested, with detrimental and far-reaching results.

The 1996 Law on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states: “No person with a disability should be discriminated against for employment, office or educational establishment on the basis of such disability.” Accordingly, students with obvious special educational needs in our schools in special schools, but what happens when they get there? According to Shanthi, director of a school that caters to children with special needs, inclusive education has been watered down to “integrate” such students into the mainstream. “Rather than creating a learning environment that encourages children with special needs, they are shaped to adapt to general education that has little to offer them.” Not surprisingly, these children often fail to perform well in school who cannot find employment in a vicious circle and cannot live independently.

While certain private schools have the resources, including trained teachers, to support children with special educational needs, such facilities are inaccessible to the vast majority of children in Sri Lanka. Nayana, a principal of a village school in the Central Province, described the ad hoc manner in which a special school was set up in her school with minimal support and resources. In Nayana’s school, around 500 pupils have more than 25 children studying special needs education. Over half of them have autism spectrum disorder followed by Down syndrome and other undiagnosed problems that make them “slow learners”. Despite their different abilities, these children can get by with a small classroom and a trained teacher. Although the unit has three teachers – two with no special education – the need is much higher. The Ministry of Education appoints one teacher for every five students with special educational needs (and one teacher for every two students with autism), but most senior positions remain vacant in the village schools. This means that parents, mostly mothers, of severely disabled children continue to stay in school to support their children’s education.

In the education zone in which Nayana’s school is located, there are two other special schools that are also severely underserved: “We do not receive any support from the education authorities to set up these units.” As a result, they function as daycare centers without resources to give the students an independent one To enable functioning, which makes “integration” very difficult. Shanthi, the above-mentioned headmistress, believes that “integration” is practically impossible, except in rare cases with high-performing students: “Most special schools do not have teachers with the necessary training, and the teachers in mainstream classes have even less expertise take care of the needs of the “integrated” students and their classes themselves to teach those with neural development problems.

In many ways, students with physical disabilities may have a better deal. Hiran, a college student with a severe physical disability, recalls his elementary school experience when his mother spent all day at school in his early years. While Hiran received tremendous support from his teachers and colleagues who went to great lengths to get him from one inaccessible place to another, he was never able to work independently due to the lack of ramps, elevators, or handicapped washrooms. While these challenges persist at university, where it is difficult to enter a classroom, education authorities have failed to help students like Hiran learn on their own. The UGC offers little guidance beyond the additional 10 minutes per hour for exams. Although the UGC’s quality assurance mechanisms recommend that institutions develop guidelines on disability, they do not provide human or other resources to ensure access and accommodation for the disabled.

However, the law, as set out in the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 1996, states: “No person with a disability shall be subject to any liability, limitation or condition with respect to access to or use of any building or by virtue of such disability Place to which another member of the public has access or is entitled to use it, regardless of whether a fee is paid or not. ”Although the law contains remedial measures for violations of these provisions, the Disability Ordinance (Accessibility) of 2006 lays down sets explicit standards for accessibility and also states that all buildings / areas should meet the standards within three years by law. that is until 2009. Twelve years later, in 2021, access for the disabled remains minimal, even at schools and universities. Few seek legal redress, perhaps because legal proceedings are time consuming, expensive, and do not provide quick results.

Free education is about equal opportunities. As the Kannangara Report of 1943 states: “Talents and skills are not restricted to any social class or group, and every social system must ensure their development by providing equal educational opportunities.” However, some of the children in our country have no educational opportunities because the education system does not support them and instead leaves their care and education to their parents, especially mothers. Last month, in response to threats of continued union action by school leaders and teachers, the Minister of Education said, “Let us all shake hands to give the children of this nation the opportunity to enjoy free education, thereby protecting free education for Everyone.” Rather than cooperating with free education to undermine unions, the minister should do his job and take steps to protect free education for all, including children with special educational needs and disabilities.

* Names are replaced by pseudonyms.

(The author is assigned to the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Jaffna University)

Kuppi is a political and educational event on the edge of the lecture hall that parodies, subverts and at the same time reinforces social hierarchies.


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