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Special children in a classroom.
G. Selvi works as a domestic help and earns Rs.900 every month. Her son, G. Rajinish,* turns 11 this October. A boy with mental disability, he has been going to a special school in the locality costing Rs.600 every month.
“He really enjoys going to school. But I have had to borrow money in the last few months to pay his school fees,” says Ms. Selvi.
She is reluctant to put him in a government school where as part of an integrated programme, children are made to study with children without disability, with extra support from teachers and special educators. “I wasn’t sure if they would give him enough attention. I want him to be economically independent when he grows up and I don’t want to compromise on his education now,” says the mother.
However, the fees and the expenses on Rajinish’s medicines, are proving to be quite a burden. “With a family income of less than Rs. 2,000, we find it hard to cope,” says R. Ganesan, his father.
Sarojini Jagannathan’s daughter Malavika,* a 15-year-old with special needs, goes to a private special school. “Yes, it is expensive, but we did not feel the pinch before the prices went up,” Ms. Jagannathan says.
Parents like the Ganesans say the financial pressure could be lessened if there were more government-run schools catering to children with disabilities.
According to S. Namburajan, state president, Confederation of Organisations for Persons with Mental Disability, there is only one government-run special school exclusively for the children with mental disability. “There are a few schools the government aids, but special schools are largely run by NGOs here. And for the poor, many of these schools are not affordable,” he notes.
While the government’s initiatives in special education, both at the school and collegiate levels are welcome, a lot more needs to be done, point out special educators.
They also point to the poor salaries paid to teachers in special schools. If the government does not raise their salaries, there is no way schools can retain good special teachers, says R. Kamala,* a special educator for over three decades.
* Some names have been changed on request
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