India’s growing population of special needs children are often forced to seek alternatives to government schooling. The number of disabled or handicapped children in India is alarming. The 2001 census placed the estimate of Indians living with diabilities to be around 22 million, while a more recent 2007 study conducted by the World Health Organization, calculates this figure to be 70 million. Over 35 percent, or more than 25 million, are children.
With little support from the government, these children often fall to the wayside. Families cannot support healthcare costs nor afford the time it takes to provide additional care. Due to financial restrictions, parents must often make extremely difficult decisions about which of their children will be sent to school. When this situation occurs, disabled children are almost undoubtedly left out. Well over 90 percent of special needs children will receive no education at all.
Over 50 percent will die before reaching age 18.
While multiple government programs are in place to help these children, the situation remains dire. Poor administration of the 1995 Persons with Disabilities Act exacerbates this. The act was amended in 2004 to incorporate provisions for special needs children in government schools. However, these changes have either not been realized or are purely aesthetic, such as the building of ramps in schools. While structures such as ramps are very important, government policies do not comprehensively respond to the profound social, cultural, economic and healthcare challenges facing these 25 million children and their families.
This gap is left to be filled by remarkable individual and organizational efforts. In this video, Pratibha Rolta reports on a unique school in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, where one woman and a community are working together to provide special needs children with a dynamic education.
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