'Education harder for children with special needs in 60% JK schools'

The School Education Department has miserably failed to construct the ramps in the government-run schools—making education facilities inaccessible for the Children with Special Needs (CWSN) in government schools. The government schools sans the ramps and railings despite Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 being applicable in J&K. As per the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) data, around 60 percent of the government schools are without ramps making the school buildings inaccessible for children with disabilities.

The UDISE data states that there are around 23082 government schools out of which 13659 sans ramps. The UDISE date may vary from the actual figure as around 2000 schools functioning in rented and government buildings were merged with adjacent schools by the government in 2015 for having meager or zero enrollment of students.

In this process around 800 government-owned buildings were emptied with no watch and ward from the department for the last five years.

“But these merged schools are shown as separate schools on UDISE portal to get the maintenance grants from the MHRD,” an official said. Meanwhile, the section 16(ii) of the Rights of persons with disabilities Act 2016 states that the appropriate government and the local authorities shall endeavor that all the educational institutions funded or recognized by them provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities and towards that end shall make buildings, campus and various facilities accessible. The government, as per the UDISE data, is lagging behind in making government schools accessible to CWSN.

Already reported by the Greater Kashmir, all the government schools were without ramps till 2019 but the election commission of India provided grants to the concerned district administration to construct ramps in those schools which were designated as polling stations.

Meanwhile, the Principal Secretary, School Education Department, Asgar Hassan Samoon has issued circular instructions for heads of government schools to take up maintenance or repair the ramps and railings within a period of four weeks without any fail.

“It will make the school buildings and environment barrier-free and accessible to the Children with Special needs,” the order reads.

As per the order, the path from the entrance to the school buildings and playground must be clear and levelled and change in surface level of more than 13mm should be ramped.

“Continuous handrails should be provided on both sides of the stairs and ramps,” the order reads. The government has also issued instructions that no construction should be done in the school without proper ramps, railings. “Any leniency or non-compliance of this circular will be viewed seriously,” it reads.