Want of the hour: Particular schooling
Children with special needs talk about challenges in online learning
While the pandemic reportedly caused learning losses for all children when education went online, it was an even tougher blow for children with special needs.
During an interaction on Children’s Day, children with special needs expressed concern and helplessness as the isolation in society grew.
Diwakar (16), a 7th grade student with speech and hearing impairments, said there were hardly any rooms with staff who could communicate in sign language. “It looks like online education can last for a long time as it is inexpensive, but the system has no physical touch and proximity which may not be very effective in the long run,” he said.
However, Anupriya, also a 7th grade student with cerebral palsy (CP), said getting children to study online has proven to be more of a challenge for children with special needs.
At the event organized by the Association of People with Disabilities (APD) in Lingarajapuram, children came and asked how online education will work. Dhruva, a grade 4 student who developed CP, wondered how it would be possible for families with more than one child and those who only have a cell phone to get the children to take online classes.
My sister also had to attend class at the same time. I was struggling as I had to share the screen with her
Dhurva, a grade 4 student
“I have a sister who is studying in the 3rd grade and she too had to attend at the same time as my class. I had difficulty studying as I had to share the screen with my sister. I was bored of sitting at home and wasn’t allowed to get out. I wanted to read books, but the school libraries were also closed and I couldn’t do anything during the pandemic, ”he said.
He even wondered if we would be ready to deal with it if there was another pandemic or a calamity or an unfortunate lockdown.
Padmini, 14, a 7th grade student with dwarfism, said a large number of children were denied educational opportunities because they did not have smartphones or laptops with them and network problems also hindered learning. She said, “By teaching online, we felt like there was no relationship between teachers and students.”
The program was jointly organized by UNICEF, APD and the Karnataka Child Rights Observatory (KCRO). Prosun Sen, UNICEF advocacy and communication expert, Hyderabad Office, responded to the children, saying that the government, international organizations and society are now well equipped with the lessons learned from the two years of dealing with a pandemic-like situation and its aftermath.
However, Vasudeva Sharma, state chairwoman of the KCRO, echoed the concerns raised by the children, saying that sign language should also be made more aware to make it easier for people with speech and hearing impairments to communicate with them.