43 lakh disabled students across states may drop out, unable to cope with online education

Children with a disability across several states in India including Odisha, are facing a huge risk of dropping out of school as they are not being able to cope with online/digital medium for their classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two surveys conducted by Swabhiman, a community-based organisation, and Disability Legislation Unit of Eastern India and partner of Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) working for the rights of disabled people, particularly children, show the current extreme vulnerability of children with disability.

The report, ‘Digital Education in India: Will students with disabilities miss the bus’ was released to the media on July 23.

Dr Sruti Mohapatra, Founder of Swabhiman said, “An underlying reality was that children from government schools belonged to poor families, and a large proportion of them were not users or owners of smartphones which are being used for online education. A total of the survey conducted, taking about 10 states of India and Odisha we found that 43 per cent of the children (out of one crore) will be dropping out of schools.”

When the government prepared its responses amid COVID-19 to tackle the situation, Swabhiman also started thinking about physically-challenged in terms of how they should undergo rapid testing and stay active, as per Dr Mohapatra.

“We had to plan about how they would be able to understand all the safety precautions and they should also be a part of government’s relief works,” she added.

One of these challenges, as per Dr Mohapatra, was the right to education for disabled people.

“This category of people is being neglected. In two big surveys, we gave questionnaires to students, parents and teachers. We also held a few interviews and discussions,” she said.

Dr Mohapatra further believes that COVID-19 has thrown new challenges and remote learning is not for this category of children.

“When we talk about them, the number is huge. It is close to some crores,” she added.

Speaking to ANI, Manisha Priyadarshini, a physically-disabled student of a slum here told, “I am physically disabled since childhood. I am facing huge difficulty to access online classes as there is no network in this area. It is easy for us to clear our doubts when the teacher is present physically.”

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