'Parents must send their special child to college'

A community college, which caters to higher education for children with developmental disability, is finding it difficult to fill seats as the parents are not ready to accept that their differently abled children are capable of pursuing higher education.

Manovikas charitable trust in collaboration with Indira Gandhi National Open University started a Community College, which is running since the last one year, regularly comes across parents unwilling to admit their wards. 

The College has 18 vocational courses in various categories (certificate, diploma or degree). The two short term courses, hospitality and retail management programme, have 15 students enrolled in the last academic session. The college has a student capacity of over 50 students at a given time.

“We get so many queries about the courses but the admissions are few. Some parents are supportive but many are hard to convince. We understand that since they have seen the child grow with hardly much improvement they find it a hopeless cause to put the child for higher studies. When they come to inquire, before we ask anything, they give out a list of things which their child cannot do,” said Indira Alok, principal of the college.

Indira said the father of Shubha, 19-year-old slow learner, is still against her studying in the college. “When her mother came to us she was also without hope but we convinced her. The mother had to go through a lot in convincing Shubha's father. Shubha is learning well, she has already studied till 9th standard. She travels from Pitampura alone. Now that there is improvement in her, he is letting her come here everyday. But we have not met or interacted with him for almost six months,” she added.

Another challenge which the institute faces is that of over expectations by the parents. Once their wards start improving, parents hope that within a short span of time they will become self sufficient.

“The parents want their children to learn things fast, get a job and become independent. That burdens the child,” added another faculty member.If the child is a drop out, an assessment is done to check the IQ and then the child is put in a course.

The children are divided under four developmental disability -- mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities. Accordingly, they are given training through suitable courses. The passing certificates are given by IGNOU.

“Some parents come and leave their children here in our hostel for months. Like Gaurav, belonging to a very poor family with multiple disabilities, was left here and his parents did not contact him for five months. Now he has got a job in Haldiram, earning a decent amount of money. So the parents took him with them,” added Alok.

According to Selma Paulson, mother of a slow learner, mainstream schools did not help her son. “The students used to tease my son. He was failing in subjects. Then we put him in this college. He did his basic management training and he is now working at Barista coffee shop,” she said.

Another parent said because of continuous failure in mainstream schools she gave up hope that schooling could help her autistic ward. “I do not know what will happen to my 20-year-old son when we are no more. He cannot even button his shirt. Some NGOs tried to help but it was basic things like painting and candle making. It is difficult to believe that my son can become independent with any kind of training now,” the parent added.

Alok said 50,000 children in Delhi have developmental disability. “There are also many registered cases in the city,” she said.


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