Rights of Children- 6m disable children need not to be deprived of education
Post 18th Amendment situation calls for urgent Action
Various research studies conclude that more than six million children in Pakistan are deprived of education and learning support due to various forms of disability. Denying disabled children their right to education is one of the greatest injustices and violation of their fundamental rights.
Social science researchers, special education experts and physiotherapists say disability among children should not become a hurdle in their development and progress rather they should be given preference so that they should not lag behind fellow children in growth and schooling. They called for protection and promotion of the rights of the disable children, especially in the aftermath of the 18th Amendment in the Constitution that devolved both education and special education ministries.
They called for a prompt and urgent action to provide protection to these children. Special Education does not have capacity to cater to the education needs of over six million children with disabilities. So there is a need to enroll them in inclusive education system to achieve target of high enrollment of children as committed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
International and national legislation recognize that all children have several inherent rights and governments as well as societies have obligation to protect and promote these rights. Unfortunately neglect of disabled children is still an issue of concern for all of us, says Amir Murtaza, a social science researcher. He has shared with INFN various experts’ views on the issue.
Faisal Imtiaz, a special education teacher says disabilities have been defined in many ways. In general, disabilities are characteristics of the body, mind, or senses that, to a greater or lesser extent, affect a person’s ability to engage independently in some or all aspects of day-to-day life.
Faiz Khan a physiotherapist by profession says disability is merely a condition. People with disabilities are just as healthy as other people who don’t have disabilities; however, for a variety of reasons, persons with disabilities can be at greater risk for illness. It is significant to mention that people with disabilities can do all sort of normal work and enjoy their lives, he added.
Farhana Bibi, mother of a 10 year disabled child, says disability brings extremely negative reaction from the community and due to such attitude his child, Nazir, didn’t get the chance to take admission in nearby government school. She said school officials advised her to bring the child to special children school, without realizing the fact that a post-polio affected child don’t need to get admission and study in special children school. Such a harsh attitude on disability is not only unfortunate but also indicates stark violations of education rights for disabled children in this country.
Samreen Hyat, a special education teacher, says children with disabilities have the right to receive schooling in mainstream schools along with the same-age students. She said inclusive education recognizes that all children can learn and that teaching must cater to the needs of students to utilize their maximum abilities.
Article 23 of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child CRC) mentioned that, “States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's active participation in the community.” Furthermore, “ recognizing the special needs of a disabled child, assistance extended in accordance with paragraph 2 of the present article shall be provided free of charge, whenever possible, taking into account the financial resources of the parents or others caring for the child, and shall be designed to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child's achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development.”
Basit Ghafoor, 14, disabled boy, said the reaction of common people, even those who are well literate, on disability is very strange. “They either give so much sympathy or just try to avoid you. I don’t understand why they don’t treat us as a normal human being”. Basit Ghafoor a fifth grade dropout said and added, “I tried my best to convince my teachers and fellow students that I am a normal person like them and they must treat me in the same way they treat other normal people.”
Sana Rohail, a sociology teacher observed that formal education is extremely important for disabled children because very few career opportunities are available for non-educated disabled people. She said even in many families parents consider their disabled children as an economic liability and don’t pay much attention to their needs. Due to indifferent attitude of family and community members, the incidence of runaway children among disabled children is quite higher.
Muhammad Ali, President Roshni Helpline, agreed that due to lack of appropriate support mechanism disabled children have become much vulnerable to all sorts of violence and exploitation. He said organized crime groups take advantage of such situation and use these children as professional beggars.