Even as the education sector has managed to sail through during the on-going pandemic through online classes, it seems special education for children with disabilities (CWD) have been a challenge. “For special children with neurodiversity, online education is not possible. They require specific physical activities, human touch and training. In virtual medium, special children cannot grasp the content,” Nilanjana Rambothu, founder, director, Sunshine Autism Care Society, Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) holder in special education told FE Education Online. She further added that during the pandemic, when schools were closed, more than children, parents had the most difficult time to cope up in fields of special education.
As physical activity is an integral part of special education, therapists opined that the closure of schools had led to deterioration in their academic performances. “Due to schools being shut during Covid-19, children almost forgot the movements, which is essential for activity based learning. The dropout rates also increased exponentially as parents cannot understand their sensory needs,” Neha Singh, physiotherapist of special children, RCI holder in special education, said.
Although ed-tech platforms are believed to have played an important role in revamping the education system through online classes, it however had failed to address the needs of these students. “Ed-tech platforms cannot help the children with special needs. There has to be one-on-one interaction for them. It will take a lot of time to bring them back to school again,” Mona Lisa Bal, chairperson, KiiT International School said.
Interestingly, according to industry experts, the course curriculum provided by the government is not sufficient to teach special children in our country. “CBSE curriculum for disabled children is not enough for their training. Every special child has different and individual problems,” Bal said. Rambothu further explained that special education is not taught in mainstream teachers’ curriculum, such as Bachelors of Education (BEd), which further acts as a barrier. “Programmes suggested by the department of special education cells are delivered through collaborations with NGOs. These programmes do not involve any curriculum based learning, as they only talk about policies,” she explained.
Around 75% of children with disabilities (CWD) in India do not attend any educational institute in their lifetime, revealed a recent UNESCO report. According to experts, the reason behind this is the lack of special educators, awareness, and special education literacy. “Special educators are not given as much priority and respect as normal teachers get in our society. They are mostly poor people who need money. During the pandemic, there was hardly any government aid provided to these people, and thus it eventually created a scarcity of special educators as they are not ready to join back while schools are reopened,” Rambothu explained.