As part of the 3 December commemoration of the United Nations International Day of People with Disability, a Disability Awareness Week is held from 27 November to 3 December in Gadchiroli District. When we consider only the physiological differences among us, we are able to appreciate the uniqueness of each person. Some of us are short, some tall; some people have straight hair, some have hair that is curly. Similarly, some are physically able, while others are physically challenged.
Each one of us is as much part of society as every other person. If any set of people is left behind, there cannot be social equity. Unless all of us truly believe that all children, the relatively able as well as the physically challenged, belong together, we cannot expect to achieve the goal of bringing about equity through education. Physically challenged students do not need sympathy or pity. Each one is an individual in her or his own right, and what they need is love and support so they can make their own mark in the world. Thus today, the understanding is that each person with disability is special.
The Right to Education (RTE) Act of 2009 made free and compulsory primary education a right for children in the 6-14 age group. Just as children from other under-served backgrounds are coming into the educational mainstream, so are the physically challenged. Teachers must help able-bodied students understand the barriers their physically challenged classmates face every day of their lives, so that the former, too, might work to remove those barriers.
Days like the International Day of People with Disability on 3rd December are an opportunity to acknowledge the struggles of students with disability, and to honour them. Many schools across Maharashtra celebrated the day with great enthusiasm. A week-long series of events was organised in Gadchiroli district by the National Secondary School Campaign and Inclusive Education for the Disabled, Gadchiroli chapter. The celebrations began with an awareness rally by physically challenged students, which was flagged off by Namdeorao Gadpalliwar, a well-known social worker from the area.
Parenting a physically challenged child is a challenge too. The first day saw a one-day workshop for parents, that guided them on issues like supporting children to become independent and self-confident. The parents were shown that they must be sensitive to the child’s psychological development. They were also informed of the various government schemes and facilities available under the Inclusive Education Programme for the Disabled. As part of the Week, a similar workshop was organised in the Armori Taluka of Gadchiroli, and an awareness rally for the physically challenged was held in Etapalli Taluka as well.
Apart from the resource group centre venues in the Moolchera and Korchi Talukas, games and competitions for physically challenged children – drawing, musical chairs, lemon and spoon races – were held throughout the district. The students displayed their talents, performing dances, songs, music and skits. They were felicitated with bouquets of roses in most schools. The attempt was to spread the awareness that students with disabilities should always be encouraged and supported.
The neighbouring district of Chandrapur also celebrated the International Day of People with Disability with great enthusiasm. Youth from the Bramhapuri Taluka visited the Special School at Wadsa and offered gifts and a feast to the students there. The Special School students were thrilled by the way Sachin Karhade and his friends reached out to them.
Blog: Nakul Lanjewar, Primary Teacher, Zilla Parishad Primary School, Kosabi, Armori Taluka, Gadchiroli District
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team