Forced to make do with Rs.17.20 a day per student, the management of the Government Residential School for the Deaf lays the blame for its pathetic condition on lax authorities. At the end of the day, it is the children who are forced to pay a heavy price.
Picture this: Worms in meals, no beds to sleep on, no hot water, broken window panes and not a single fire extinguisher. These are the conditions in which the students of the Government Residential School for the Deaf, Malakpet, are forced to live in every day, claims an organisation that has now filed a petition with the State Human Rights Commission. The requests for betterment of this special needs school have fallen on deaf ears.
The State government gives a mere Rs.17.20 per day to each student, and this amount must take care of all of the child’s needs like clothing, food and bedding. Every student of Class I to VII is allotted Rs.473 a month; this increases to Rs.535 a month for students in Class VIII to X. This amount is fixed regardless of price hikes, dealing the children a raw deal.
The fact that winter is setting in has only made things worse. With no beds, the children sleep on the floor. Broken window panes make it that much harder to bear the cold, considering all they are given is a bedsheet or blanket to shield themselves. The hostel is home to 134 students and none of them get hot water. With no fire extinguishers, there are no safety measures in place for the 144 children who attend the school. There isn’t even a playground here.
On November 22, the Andhra Pradesh Balala Hakkula Sangham (APBHS) filed a petition with the Human Rights Commission, claiming that corporal punishment was still prevalent at the school. What is more shocking is that the Sangham claimed that the children were being served stale food, many times with insects and worms in rice and curries. The petitioner, Achyuta Rao, president, APBHS, said the students were forced to take cold water baths in winter.
When Postnoon went to get a first-hand view of the condition of the school, a cane kept in a classroom proved the Sangham’s claims of corporal punishment. The staff’s meek excuse was that the cane was used to point out things written on the blackboard. A teacher, K Premila Devi, was aghast at the allegation of worms in the food. “We sit and eat with the students. How it is possible that we don’t know that there are insects in the food?”
The school says that on several occasion, it has requested the government to increase the daily funding for each student to Rs.50. “We get only Rs.17.20 per student a day. It is very difficult to maintain this budget. With the current prices, it is impossible for us to provide egg, milk and fruits to each child,” said one staff member. The school says it requires a minimum monthly amount of Rs.1,000 per child.
Shockingly, Postnoon also found that the teachers here do not have the training required to teach deaf and dumb children. “All the teachers here have done their B.Ed from the National Institute of Hearing. But we are not up-to-date with the latest developments in the field,” said one teacher. This undoubtedly affects the quality of education at the school — a heavy price paid by the students.
When quizzed about the pathetic condition of the school, principal Lacha Goud blamed the government. “For the last four years, the per-day scheme has not changed. We have requested the authorities several times to revise the budget, but we are forced to make do with the paltry sum that has been allocated,” he said.
The State Human Rights Commission has taken note of the case and has instructed the collector, Hyderabad, to submit a report on the school by January 21, 2013. Only time will tell if this will finally bring about the much-needed change in the lives of the special needs children, or if this will be another case lost in bureaucracy.
Training the teachers
In India, a majority of the teacher training programmes are one-year diploma courses after high school education, run by non-governmental organisations.
There are about six university-level programmes, leading to the B.Ed degree after graduation.
The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) is currently making efforts to streamline teacher training programmes in terms of syllabus, infrastructure and staff pattern, to assure the quality of training.
The syllabus for university-level programme (B.Ed. – Special Education) has been already standardised by RCI, while the M.Ed syllabus is in the process of standardisation.