Children with disabilities are at high risk of dropping out of schools as they are unable to cope up with the online education during the covid-19 pandemic. It is becoming hard for them to switch the mode of education from offline to online. As a result, it is leading to the closure of schools.
Disability Legislation Unit of Eastern India of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and India’s leading cross-disability rights organization, and partner of Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) with Swabhiman a community-based organization which work’s for the rights of disabled people surveyed to show the current extreme vulnerability of CwDs.
On Friday the survey report was released on ‘Digital education in India: Will students with disabilities miss the bus’, which showed the impact of online learning on disabled students.
Impact of Digital Divide on Disabled Students in India
“Children with disabilities were already facing a myriad of discrimination due to urban-rural divide and digital divide now e-learning has become a new barrier to their education as these children lack resources required to be part of online education”, said Arman Ali, executive director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP).
‘Unfortunately teacher’s are also not trained enough to teach the disabled children online as these children need special care and assistance, disabled children do not seem to be their priority’, he mentioned.
‘Another problem is that parent’s are not aware E-education system and are not able to adapt the new changes, which has lead to increasing absenteeism of disabled students for online classes’, he further added.
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Highlights of the Report
- The survey showed that only 56.5 percent of differently-abled students were “struggling yet attending classes” irregularly.
- Parents of 90 percent CwDs stated that teachers are not paying attention to them whereas 86 percent of parents stated that they do not know how to use smart devices and 76 percent of mothers felt helpless as they do not understand technology.
- Approximately 77 percent of students complained that they will not be able to cope with online education and would lack behind due to their inability to access devices while 71 percent of students stated that they were finding it difficult to cope with the Covid-19 social and educational scenario.
- Around 69 percent of students do not have access to smartphones or computer’s which are essential for accessing online classes.
- More than 80 percent of teachers complained that they do not have appropriate study material suitable for online learning of disabled students.
- Around 74 percent of the students said they needed data/Wi-Fi support for educational purposes while 61 percent expressed a need for scribes, escorts, readers, and attendants.
Reasons behind Increasing Absenteeism and Irregularity of Disabled Children in Online Classes
The survey showed various reasons for the irregularity of disabled students in online classes. Around 71 percent of students told that their fathers use smart devices to work from home to earn a livelihood and they cannot afford a new smart device for their online class as smart devices are expensive.
87.4 percent of smartphone users told that they couldn’t attend the classes due to poor connectivity because of which they couldn’t see or listen to the teachers. While 78 percent of students said that their father’s do not like the concept of online teaching as it consumed a lot of costly data as most recharge amounts were 399/599 for 86/54 days with 1.5 to 2GB per day. Around 61 percent of students found it difficult to engage in hour-long online classes.
Problems Faced by Visually Impaired Students
Around 39 percent of students who are visually impaired were unable to understand lessons with many students talking. 44 percent of students stated that no sign language interpreter was present in the webinars.
What Need to Do?
The comprehensive recommendations from Swabhiman include various aspects of the lives of students, teachers, and parents. Dr. Sruti Mohapatra from Swabhiman said, “The first requisite is reading material in alternate formats. These circumstances are non-negotiable and alternative course material must serve to different disabilities, our recommendations include empowering students, teachers and parents so that they can play their roles more effectively”.
Dr. Mohapatra further stated, “These children can’t be clubbed in one group as they are from different disabilities and need different assistance. Current pandemic has the potential of leaving students with disabilities behind. If adequate measures are not taken urgently, they are likely to suffer irrecoverable losses in their quest for education and a life of dignity.”