Natasha Chopra; Times News Network; May 2, 2005
Madhya Pradesh has become probably the first state in the country to incorporate a chapter on disability in school textbooks in all government schools. Isn’t that an example that the rest of the country should follow?
"Absolutely," says Akhil Paul, Director, SENSE International. Paul feels incorporating awareness and learning about disability at an early age is essential, "as anything in the inclusive mode has to happen early to leave an impression".
He says that acceptance among people towards disability is very low, which in turn has resulted in lack of opportunities for disabled people. "All the work that's done for them is often considered charity. We have to understand that they are people first and disabled later," he says. "Introducing a chapter on disability in schools is extremely crucial, as it would allow [children] to understand, accept and respond to differently-abled people naturally. And thus, terms like 'disability' will no longer exist."
"It is not disabled, but differently abled," asserts Ranjit Gohel, president, MEET International, a helpline. Gohel, who has polio, is the recipient of several awards in photography and sports; he is proof of determination overcoming odds. He reveals that awareness about the high rate of disability (especially in rural areas) is extremely low, and hence, such people face immense difficulties. "Including a chapter on this problem in our education system may force the government to make provisions for them," he hopes.
In fact, the lack of awareness about disability among the 'educated' and 'educators' is alarming. When contacted, the vice principal of a reputed boys' school claimed that the school was "extremely sensitive" towards its disabled students -- the definition of disabled being "slow and hard of hearing".
Thankfully, some educators do realise the importance (and correct definition) of introducing disability lessons in education. Manjula Shroff, chairperson of Delhi Public School, terms the step as progressive. "Introducing disabled children to other children will open up a world of socialisation for both," she points out.
The ball is now in the government's court. However, according to the report, State Education Minister Anandiben Patel said she was not aware of the Madhya Pradesh government's step. "We have included some things in our curriculum in the past few years," she added. While Patel agreed on the importance of sensitising people towards disability, on following the M.P. government's step, she said, "Every state has its own policies. We will do what we deem best for the state.”