BANGALORE: A mission to bring special children into the mainstream of society is in jeopardy. The reason: the state is facing an acute shortage of special education faculty because of poor pay and lack of job security.
Experts call special education “a grey area”, and believe that the paltry honorarium paid to the staff is not enough to make ends meet.
They feel that if the faculty problem isn’t solved, special children are likely to remain out of the mainstream.
According to the Department of Public Instruction, there are more than 100 schools for the disabled in the state and of these, eight are run by the government. Of the eight, four are dedicated to the blind and the others to the hearing-impaired.
Vasanth Kumar Shetty, Secretary of the Karnataka State Association of Special Education Services and Staff, said those who teach at special schools are being neglected by the government.
In government-funded schools, `2,000 is allotted for one child for 10 months a year. For children living in hostels, it is `2,500. For teachers, the honorarium is only `6,000 a month. Caretakers get `3,750 and helpers `3,500. “How do the officials expect teachers to come forward then?” Shetty asked.
He stressed the importance of special schools for such children, whose tantrums and behavioural problems need to be dealt with by trained teachers.
According to statistics from the Department of Public Instruction, there are over one lakh children with special needs in the state.
A majority of them are orthopaedically-impaired children (21,050), followed by those with poor eyesight (18,962). There are 18,481 mentally-challenged kids, according to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
Shetty said the required student-to-teacher ratio for mentally-challenged children is 7:1 in the case of moderate to mild retardation, 2:1 for severe retardation and 1:1 for profound retardation. But a large number of these children are attending regular schools and teachers find it hard to train them if they are studying alongside normal children.
Shetty said only 38 aided schools for special children are receiving grants from the government and of these, six schools are exclusively for mentally-challenged kids.
“The grants are paltry. So even people interested in teaching these kids are forced to look for other options,” he said.
Usha Rani, Deputy Director of the Association for People with Disability, said the ratios are not met in most schools because of the poor pay.
“Only people with compassion for such kids are coming forward,” she said.
No Takers for Courses in Spl Edn
Two institutes - Karnataka Parents’ Association for Mentally Retarded Citizens, Bangalore, and St Agnes Special School, Mangalore - offer BEd and Diploma in Special Education, but there are few takers for either course, sources told Express.
“People from Kerala and Goa undergo training in these institutes and go back to teach in schools in their states, where they get paid according to the scale set by the Sixth Pay Commission,” a source said.
He said most of the special schools in the state (60) are located in Bangalore city and districts like Raichur, Bidar, Hassan and Chitradurga don’t have a single one.
“These issues are not being handled by the Education Department. At present, it is the Department of Women and Child Development (which deals with them),”he said.The mandates of the Rehabilitation Council of India state that teachers without special qualification aren’t eligible to teach special children.
Usha Rani said about 2 per cent of the children are specially-abled but the resource allocation is not in proportion to their population.
“If regular teachers train these kids with other children, the children drop out as they don’t learn anything,” she said.
Forum Alleges ‘Lack of Attention’
Most kids with hearing impairment drop out before completing primary schooling. Usha Rani said only 10 per cent of the total disabled kids in regular schools appear for Class 10 examinations and this showed the “lack of attention” towards them.