50% of 25,000 such children in Kerala could be outside the ambit of online education
Every morning for over a year now, Meenakshi (name changed), a 16-year-old special child with cerebral palsy from Pachalam, has been putting on her uniform when it is time to go to school.
And when it eventually dawns on her that there is no school to go, she turns violent. While last year the recorded class sessions engaged her for the time they lasted, this year she is even stripped of that little privilege as classes turned live.
“We don’t have a smartphone to help he access online classes. So it is now more idleness for her leading to even more violence,” said her father Varghese.
Similar scenes in varying degrees are getting played out in the families of special children. Organisations working in the field estimate that nearly 50% of 25,000 special children across 300 special schools in the State could be outside the ambit of online education for want of digital devices.
“We are conducting a survey to estimate the exact number of students without digital devices. We will pass on that list to the State government seeking help. We will also try to find sponsors to bridge that digital divide,” said Susheela Kuriachan, vice-chairperson, Association of the Intellectually Disabled (AID), a combine of special schools.
Ancy Sebastian, mother of a 10-year-old special child from Varapuzha, with a faulty phone, has to depend on her mother’s phone for sporadic access to assignments given by her school.
“My son’s education is now largely reduced to occasional calls from his teachers and assignments have not been submitted. He loves to interact with his teachers and not being able to do it regularly saddens him,” she rued.
K.M. George, State president of Parents’ Association for the Intellectually Disabled (PAID), observed that often the families had access to only one smartphone. “If the special child has a normal sibling, then her education may get priority. Also, the parents may need phone for their own work. The State government will have to step in to address the digital divide faced by these special children,” he said.
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