Is it a curse to be a special child?

Is it a curse to be a special child?

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

You need to be born filthy rich in India, to be a parent to a special child. If I had the option, I would have never sent Yash away,” says Nikita Sarah, head of advocacy and communication at an international NGO and a single mother who takes care of her three sons. Seventeen-year old Yash, the second of her three sons, is autistic and can’t speak. 

Says Nikita, “Eight years back, when I made the decision to shift to Delhi from Chennai, I realised I was wrong in doing so. I found that there were very few schools for special children and if a mainstream school was agreeing to admit them, the fee structure (Rs 20,000/month) was beyond my capacity to meet. Also, mainstream schools often have a day care programme and I could not be present in both the places – the school and my office.” 

Torn between her love for Yash and his wellbeing and academic growth, the sole breadwinner of the house decided to enrol her child in a residential school for special children in Bangalore.

Reviewing her case in the context of the recent High Court order seeking a report on facilities at schools for special kids (in lieu of nursery admissions), Nikita’s decision seems justified. She mentions that even if she would have borne the exorbitant fee that the mainstream schools demanded, the lack of provision for therapies in these schools, was reason enough for her to decide on sending her child away to a different city. The fact that children with autism can’t get a disability certification from the Government makes this mother’s heart bleed. The only consolation being the internet-group that the parents of autistic children have created to help each other. “Just few hours back a parent has asked this query of a good school for her autistic child since she is migrating to Delhi. This is the only source of inspiration for parents like us,” says Madhusudan Srinivas, father of 21-year old Abhimanyu who was diagnosed autistic in 1995. “Even two decades later, things haven’t changed much.

It is a bleak situation where we get no governmental provisions. People like me are able to admit our children in good schools because we can afford, but everybody can’t. And even if we enrol our children in these schools or mainstream schools, there is no guarantee of appropriate education unlike other countries.”  

A major reason behind this is the involvement of only private institutes and NGOs. Nikita mentions that the mindset in the Capital is quite commercial unlike down South. “When my son was in Chennai, he had even won the junior skating championship. But in Delhi there was no attention paid to sports at all!”

From next year onwards, all mainstream schools will be under obligation to ensure a quota for special children. But would imposing the law sensitise schools to amalgamate special children with normal? Especially when a class of about 50 nursery children gets one or two teachers only. 

“It is true that in order to bring special children in line with mainstream, parents want to enrol their wards in regular schools only. But this can harm the child, instead of helping him or her if the school doesn’t have a special educator,” says Amita Garg, consultant cardiologist and intensivist who is also the mother of four-year old Dron suffering from Down’s Syndrome. 

Amita has filed the PIL in court regarding nursery admissions of special children and the delay on part of Delhi Directorate of Education. She says, “There are a handful of schools for special children in the City with innumerable children seeking admission. If this is the state of the National Capital then what should we expect from other States?”

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