According to census 2011 Kashmir has more than 5 lakhs differently abled people. However, a bitter reality is that facilities provided to them are inadequate. Another survey done by the government officials and SAMAGRA revealed that more than 40 thousand children suffer from Autism, cerebral palsy, ADHD and other diseases. However, children suffering from these diseases have a better scope in capitals like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Opportunities are provided more often in terms of better schooling and jobs in big cities. Most of the private schools are willingly taking these children under the RPWD Act. On the contrary in Kashmir parents need to move to the capital to provide these differently abled children with better education and other facilities, as Kashmir is not well equipped when it comes for treatment neither in government nor in private sectors, said Zaheer Jan.
Suffering of parents in Kashmir is worse as many renowned school don’t provide admission to these children. However some of the schools with CBSE board do admits these children, nonetheless the education professionals in these schools are not B.Ed qualified. Some of the teachers are either simple graduate, MBA professional or even just 10+2 pass out. According to Jan these kids need special attention, for which well qualified professionals are needed. Teachers with qualification in B.Ed, MR and Visual Impairment, Rehabilitation therapy, Occupational therapy, speech therapy and Physiotherapy who are certified by rehabilitation council of India are required. Sometimes lack of attention and mishandling can prove to be fatal for these kids.
Last year in the month of June, a differently abled child met with an accident during the school hours and become bed ridden with 80% disability. The incident happened due to teacher’s negligence as the kid was visually impaired and got hit by a bus. The sadness about the event was that parents spent lakhs for his treatment yet he could not recover fully. Incidents like these occur because the teachers are not RCI professionals. Educators in institutions try to raise their voice against this situation however their voices are either supressed or goes unnoticed. The veracity of the matter is no child right activist or Kashmiri journalist wants to cover this issue and bring it to forefront.
Parents are so helpless here that they knock door to door for therapeutic services for these kids. One of the greatest task for the parents is to get their kids into an everyday school. Although some of the reputed institutions have started to grant admission to these kids however there are no profession staff present to take care of them. Another task comes in for parents when they have to look for a private therapist. If we were to go by the shared responsibilities then schools are responsible for providing such services to these kids instead of their parents. In some cases parents prefer to stay outside of the town so that they can seek better services. However at times these situations exhaust the parents mentally and they feel no ray of hope is left for their kids.
Although there is a high priority given to Goal4 and Goal5 of UNSDGs 2030, yet we still have a long way to go. By abiding by the rules and regulations of RCI we can strengthen the institution who are already working for these kids.
According to United Nation proclamation, childhood needs special care and assistance. Every child by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special care including appropriate legal protection before and after birth, said Dr Chintanjeet Kour social activist and senior physiotherapist. RCI has issued an order in 2019 that only RCI professional can work with these kids. However in Kashmir a simple graduate tends to involves themselves with these children resulting in mishandling. Moreover once these kids reach the age of 18 none of the schools take them and parents are forced to keep them at home. Despite several representations given to schools none of them are bothered to grant admission to these children.
As per rights of person and disability act 2016, these kids can utterly get quality education. Seeing these scenario parents do gets frustrated as they are unable to handle these kids in a home environment. The matters needs a platform to be reorganised and heard off. Each and every professional working in this field needs to raise their voices against the malpractice in schools and hospitals, said Dr. Fouzia and Dr. Sheema Reeyan; a senior physiotherapist in the valley.
Every child who suffers any kind of disability or deformity should have the right for quality and free education till the age of 18. After the revocation of article 370 central law should be applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, granting these kids with 10% of reservation for their admission in any CBSE school as per RPWD act.
As stated by Zaheer jan and Mudasir Shaban, colleges should also come up with vocational training. This will help these children to further pursue their education instead of sitting at home.
Mudasir Shaban says, “I am a disabled person myself and I can feel the pain of 21 disabilities at the same time. Even though there are various NGO’s on the name of disability, they have hardly done anything for this sector. Disabled are always dependent on their family and once they lose them, the life for a disable becomes hell. As a disabled we try to do a lot many things on our own however we still losses the grip when it comes to special tasks. We don’t have enough resources to meet our day to day demands. We wish for better policies and a set of jobs that are meant for people like me.”
With input from Zaheer Abbas, Pediatric Rehabilitation Therapist & social activist
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