CHENNAI: Despite years of effort, Tamil Nadu schools have still not become fully accessible for children with special needs (CWSN) as nearly 70% of them don’t have disabled-friendly toilets. According to the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) report for 2021-22, released recently by the Union ministry of education, of the 58,801 schools (including government, aided, and private) in Tamil Nadu, only 17,579 schools have toilets for children with special needs (CWSN) complete with facilities like ramps, handrail and wheelchair access.
Because of a lack of facilities, several CWSNs, particularly girls, hesitate to go to school, say experts. What is even more worrying for disability activists is that the percentage of schools with toilets accessible for students with disabilities is down 3% from 32% in 2021 to 29% in 2022 in the state.
One notable aspect is that government schools have better infrastructure for CWSN compared to private ones in the state. The report shows that at least 36.2% of government schools have CWSN-friendly toilets while the figure is just 24.4% for private schools. “Such dismal performance is not expected from a progressive state like Tamil Nadu. Our administrators still don’t understand the concept of inclusive education,” said TMN Deepak, a disability-rights activist.
Only 74% schools have ramps, says report
“We have been talking a lot about the rights of the disabled, but at the grassroots level we are not able to provide basic amenities like CWSN-friendly toilets to our kids,” Deepak said. According to the report, 100% of schools in Delhi have CWSN-friendly toilets.
Creating CWSN facilities in schools is a need of the hour as 1,55,552 disabled students have enrolled in Classes 1 to 12 in the academic year 2021-22 in TN schools. The report also shows that only 74% of schools have ramps and only 41.1% of schools have ramps with handrail facilities.
According to teachers, one of the main reasons for a drop in CWSN facilities in schools is the lack of maintenance. “If a handrail is damaged, it is never repaired. The number thus keeps declining,” said a government schoolteacher in Chennai.