THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Close to 300 special schools in Kerala have decided to go on an indefinite strike against the government apathy. After several protests before the Secretariat by students and their parents and teachers, the government had appointed a committee to study their issues. But now it is reliably learnt that the government is keen to see that mild and moderate level disability students are sent to regular schools. Come April 25, more than 5,000 special educators, other staff members and parents will hold a protest in front of the Secretariat demanding aided category status.
The State Association for Coordinating Rehabilitation and Empowerment of Developmentally Disabled (SACRED) has decided to go on indefinite strike in June if the government continues dilly-dallying. Recently there was an allegation against a special school under CSI church of appointing educators after taking a bribe, which angered the government. Fr Roy Vadakkel, chairman of Association for Intellectually Disabled (AID), said special needs children would not join the protest on April 25 due to scorching summer.
“The government is generalising an isolated issue,” Fr Vadakkel, who also heads Asha Nilayam Special School for Men-tally Challenged Children in Kottayam, told this newspaper. “We are not against the government starting 200 more Bud schools. They should at least ensure not to open one in places where there are already special schools.” At present, there are 67 Bud schools. Recently, at a pre-budget meeting, the finance minister chaired, a CPM leader had termed mushrooming Bud schools as “kennel schools.” This highlights the pathetic condition of the ‘voiceless’ children. A special needs educator has to get the recognition from the Rehabilitation Council of India. But the Bud schools are run by Kudumbashree, and a majority of them lack qualifications and experience.
Currently, the Bud school teachers are paid Rs 30,000 by the government whereas their compatriots at the 284 unaided special schools get Rs 3,800 to Rs 25,000. They term the government’s policy excluding “mild and moderate categories” as a “utopian” idea. “The government wants special needs schools to turn care homes for just severe and profound category students,” a special needs educator said. “But there are lots of practical difficulties, and it is not easy as it sounds.”...