Tribune News Service
Amritsar, December 17
City schools imparting education to special kids are on the verge of closure due to drying up of funds amid Covid-induced uncertainties, putting the future of around 250 kids and 25 teachers in jeopardy. The online medium of schooling amid the pandemic is also proving to be an impediment.
There are three main schools devoted to the cause of children with special needs in Amritsar. Government-affiliated Pehal Resource Centre has 128 students. Dharminder Gill, centre coordinator, says, “We haven’t received any funds from the government or private donors after the Covid lockdown was imposed. The collaborations with NGOs and other agencies are on hold. We are barely surviving.” The other institutes, Ibadat and Agosh, running completely on donations, have also been facing a major financial crunch. “With sharp decline in donations, we are struggling to make ends meet. Arranging salaries has become a herculean task,” says Shilpi Ganguly, principal at Ibadat.
A majority of the children in these schools are those with intellectual disabilities, including cerebral palsy and autism, who need physical activity-based learning. Then there are visually impaired kids who cannot take online classes without Braille documents while those with hearing disabilities require sign language instructors.
“The learning of students from poor families, without any means and devices, has been put on hold in the absence of an inclusive mechanism of digital learning and support system. A learning hiatus in such children can further impede their growth and even trigger behavioral changes,” says Shilpi. The literacy rate among special kids in our country is already dismal, she adds.
The parents, meanwhile, are finding it tough to make their children learn through virtual medium. “Special kids cannot operate smartphones or laptops without assistance. Individual learning plans have to be made keeping in mind specific needs,” says Prerna Khanna, whose son has cerebral palsy. “As a parent, one has to constantly sit through online class, document everything and try not to miss on any detail,” she adds.