Ensure that all children in our society are protected from all forms of
While all children need protection, because of their social, economic, or even geographical location, some children are more vulnerable than others and need special attention. These children are:
Following are some of the popular myths related child abuse and exploitation of children:
1. MYTH: Children are never abused or exploited. Society loves its children.
FACT: Yes it is true that we love our children, but clearly there is something missing. India has the largest number of child labourers in the world, the largest number of sexually abused children and the lowest ever male to female child ratio in the 0-6 age group, showing that the very survival of the girl child is at stake. Even young infants are not spared when they are sold for adoption or simply killed.
Crimes recorded against children present a sordid tale! Going by the Government’s own records, there has been a 11.1 percent increase in crimes against children between 2002 and 2003. There are many more cases that never get reported.
2. MYTH: Home is the safest haven.
FACT: The extent of abuse faced by children in their homes clearly belies this belief. Often children are seen as their parents’ private property who can be used (rather abused) any way.
We witness incidents of fathers selling their daughters to friends or strangers for money every other day. Studies on sexual abuse have shown that incest is the most common form of abuse. There are also many cases of fathers’ raping their daughters being reported in the media and proved in the court. Female infanticide i.e. killing of new born girls, child sacrifices resulting from superstition, dedication of girls to gods and goddesses in the name of custom and tradition such as ‘jogini’ or ‘devadasi’ in some parts of India, are some forms of home-based violence. Marrying away young children is not out of love for children but a need to pass on the responsibility of care and nurturing, even if that brings ill health and trauma to their own child.
While these are some extreme cases, beating up children ruthlessly is a common practice in almost every household in the country. Neglect too has become a common practice in both poor and rich families, often leading to different forms of behavioural problems, particularly depression, amongst children.
3. MYTH: There is no need to worry about a male child. Male children need no protection.
FACT: The boy child is as much a victim of abuse – physical and emotional – as the girl child, although the girl child remains more vulnerable because of her lower status in society as a whole. Boys are victims of corporal punishment at school and at home; many are sent, and often even sold for labour, while many are victims of sexual abuse.
4. MYTH: It does not happen in our school/village!
FACT: Each one of us tends to believe that child abuse happens elsewhere - not in our homes, our school, our village or our community. It affects ‘other’ children, not ours. It occurs only among the poor, the working class, unemployed or uneducated families. It is not a middle class phenomenon. It occurs in the cities and towns and not in the rural areas. The reality is just the opposite of all this as the abused child is in all these spaces and needs our assistance and help.
5. MYTH: The abusers are psychopaths or mentally ill persons.
FACT: The abusers are not mentally sick persons, against popular belief. Abusers are in fact characterised by their normality and diversity. Child sexual abusers, for example, attempt to justify their action in different ways and this is just one of those. Most child traffickers are persons close to the family or known to the family and misuse the trust that the family vests in them as a weapon to take their children away.
Child abuse occurs across socio-economic, religious, cultural, racial, and ethnic groups.
Research, documentation and interventions by government and the civil society groups in the past have clearly brought forth some of the following child protection issues and categories of children that deserve special protection:
MYTHS, MYTHS AND MORE MYTHS – IF YOU KNOW YOUR FACTS YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
MYTH: Beta to Chahiye hi, ham uske liye char-paanch betiyan kyon paida karein? (We want a son, come what may, then why should we risk 4-5 daughters for that?)
Bringing up a girl child is like watering a neighbour’s garden. You raise them up, protect them all through and also plan for their marriage and dowry till they are finally gone. Sons are at least there to carry forward the legacy of the family, take care of parents in their old age and perform the last rites.
There is no point educating daughters, giving them freedom to do what they like and holding on to them till they grow up to be married off. All this only adds to the family burden.
FACT: These are beliefs that are part of the patriarchal structure of society and need to be challenged. People spend as much on their son’s wedding as they spend on their daughter’s wedding. Clever as we all are, we give away dowry in a daughter’s marriage basically to tell her that she should not claim any rights in the parental property.
Always remember that while giving and receiving ‘dowry’ is a crime, excluding daughters from a share in parental property is also illegal.
In any case, we must learn to accept the realities of life. A visit to the old age homes tells us how much our sons take care of their old parents. In fact there are plenty of cases where married daughters have come forward to support their parents in old age.
Girls have as much a right to survival, development, protection and participation as boys.Denying any of these rights to girls is perpetuating the cycle of gender discrimination and poverty.
For centuries those girls who have come into this world have suffered gender discrimination in every sphere of life – education being one of those. We always forget what Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation has said – “Educate one man, you educate one person, but educate a woman and you educate a whole civilisation”.
Once we facilitate our daughters’ development in a manner that they are able to understand what is good and bad and take rational decisions on their own, many of our fears about too much freedom will find an automatic solution. Only a conviction that a girl child has same human rights as any other human being can make this happen. If safety and security of girls is a national concern, it is important to remember that to have daughters who are not empowered will only increase their vulnerability.
The Census 2011 shows that there are only 940 women in this country for every 1000 men. The Sex Ratio 2011 shows an upward trend from the census 2001 data. Census 2001 revealed that there were 933 females to that of 1000 males. Since decades India has seen a decrease in the sex ratio 2011, but since the last two of the decades there has been in slight increase in the sex ratio. Since the last five decades, the sex ratio has been moving around 930 females to that of 1000 males.
Under the legal cover of marriage to old men from within the country and also the Middle East, young girls are often duped into exploitative situations, including prostitution. Marriage has emerged as a means to traffic young girls into labour and prostitution.
To say that early marriage means safety and protection from abuse is wrong. In fact it actually implies all kinds of violence inflicted by people on the girl from within the family, from people, she is constantly told to trust and obey. Child marriage implies child rape, as children can never be said to have attained the age of maturity for their action or inaction at that age.
Safety from outsiders is in any case never a guarantee for any woman, married or not. All women can be targets of rape and sexual abuse, married or single, young or old, veiled or out of veil. Increasing incidence of crimes against women too proves this.
When veiled and uneducated married women are raped in our villages it is not because they are uneducated, but because they belong to a certain caste or are targets of some group rivalry.
Finally, to think that early marriage can solve the problem of dowry is not correct. In a patriarchal society like ours the groom’s family always maintains an edge over the girl’s family and expects the girl’s family to oblige every time they need something. When dowry is not taken at the time of marriage, all kinds of demands are put on girls after marriage.
MYTH: There can be no solution to the problem of child labour. Poor parents do not want to send their children to school. They would rather have their children work and bring back some earning into the family income. These children have no choice but to work, otherwise they and their families will starve. Also, if they work they become equipped with some skills for the future.
FACT: When we hear such things we must ask ourselves why is it that some poor people send their children to school despite all odds while some others don’t. The truth is that poverty is just an excuse given by those who need to ensure continual supply of children for their benefit. Social factors contribute to the phenomenon of child labour. The socially marginalised communities are the victims of social hierarchy characterized by unequal access to resources. We all know that starvation persists even when families and their children are working. This is because starvation is the result of unjust social and economic factors.
All parents want to educate their children, at least give them basic quality education. For uneducated parents the admission procedures are too complex. Documentary evidence of date of birth, caste certificates are greater barriers in enrolling children into schools. For children, the curriculum is tough to cope with, particularly if they are first generation learners as their parents are not educated to provide the back-up support at home by helping them with the homework. Corporal punishment, caste discrimination, lack of basic facilities such as toilets and drinking water are some other factors that keep children away from school. In case of girls, sibling care often becomes the priority since child-care facilities are lacking in both rural and urban areas and gender biases are deep entrenched in people’s psyche.
Children who work and don’t go to a school remain illiterate and unskilled for the rest of their lives. This is because children are usually part of the unskilled labour. Moreover, in some occupations exposure to harmful chemicals and other substances, long hours of work, postures for work are factors that damage children’s health, and impair their development.
Existence of child labour is in direct contradiction to the fundamental right to free and compulsory elementary education for every child in the 6-14 years age group guaranteed by the Constitution of India in Article 21 A.
It should be noted that, every child out of labour means one more job available for adults. India has huge population of unemployed adults who could take the place of the children, leaving the children free to enjoy their right to childhood.
India accounts for the highest number of child labour in the world. According to the Census of India 2001, 1.25 crore children in the age group of 5-14 years are engaged in different occupations. However, estimates of NGOs put this at much more, because there are many more working in the unorganised sector and in small-scale household units, who never get enumerated as child labour.
Children are being trafficked for labour every day. Touts and middlemen come to the villages posing as well wishers and take away children to work in different parts of the country. Children from Bihar and Bengal are brought to work in Karnataka, Delhi or Mumbai in embroidery units; from Tamil Nadu to Uttar Pradesh to work in sweet making units and to Surat to work on gem and diamond polishing etc. Hundreds of them are employed in middle class homes as domestic labour.
MYTH: Child sexual abuse is very rare in our country. It is all media hype that is doing more harm than good. Children or adolescents have started fantasizing, making up stories and lying about being sexually abused. In any case it only happens to bad girls with loose character.
FACT: Children, as young as few months, and even a few days old, are known to be victims of child sexual abuse. While girls are more vulnerable to being sexually abused, against popular belief, boys too are victims.
Children with mental and physical disabilities are indeed at greater risk of abuse due to their vulnerability.
Child sexual abuse cuts across gender, class, caste or ethnicity and happens to both urban and rural children.
A child may be abused in any of the following ways:
• Sexual intercourse through penile penetration i.e. rape, or use of objects or other parts of body.
• Exposing children to pornography and using them for producing pornographic materials.
• Directly or indirectly touching any part of the body of a child with an object or with a part of body for sexual gratification.
• Exposing or flashing genital organs or other parts of the body with sexual intent.
• Deriving voyeuristic pleasure by showing sexual activity or forcing two or more children to have sex with each other.
• Passing sexually coloured remarks or verbally abusing a child using vulgar and obscene language or actions.
The fact that the offender appears caring, gentle and loving to the child can be a very disturbing aspect of the abuse to the child and may leave a strong legacy of self-blame, guilt and mistrust of his/her own self and others.
A child may be abused by someone he or she knows or by a stranger.
The perpetrator, in 90% of the cases, is someone the child knows and trusts. The abuser usually violates a relationship of trust and takes advantage of her/his power and position. In a number of cases the abuser is someone very close to the child – the father, older brother, cousin or uncle or neighbour. When the abuser is a member of the family, it is incest.
Sexual abuse has been in society as long as society has existed. The selling off of girls for prostitution or even the religious and cultural practices such as ‘Devadasi; system or the ‘Jogini’ system are examples of this. However, over the years there has been more awareness and reportage of this violence rather than media hype as people would like to put it. Studies among adult women have shown that as much as 75 per cent of them had experienced abuse in their child hood. Majority were incestuously abused or abused by known people. The myth about media hype only serves to deny an uncomfortable truth.
Men who sexually abuse children do so in addition to, rather than instead of, having sex with their wife/adult partner. They are not mentally sick persons against popular belief. Abusers are in fact characterised by their normality and diversity. Child sexual abusers attempt to justify and defend their action in different ways and this is just one of those.
Few men are careless enough to have a witness around when they abuse a child.
Children are too scared to tell anyone about the sexual abuse or the discomfort of being forced to watch a sexual act. No matter how old the victim is, the abuser is always more powerful. The victim is no match for the craftiness of the abuser and she/he does not have the resources to stop the abuse from happening or to tell someone about it, especially if the abuser is a close family member. Often mothers, who do know about the abuse, are in no position to prevent it because of their own powerlessness. Fear of breaking up the family or the fact that they may not be believed, pushes them into silence. Parents and adults in the family, indeed society itself, brush their discomfort aside and ignore or deny the fact of sexual abuse of children.
Most disclosures by children about abuse and exploitation faced by them are found to be true. The fantasy theory combined with society’s denial of incest/child sexual abuse/child trafficking or any other form of child abuse indeed serve to blame the victim for the abuse rather than address the problem that stares at our faces today.
Children are innocent and vulnerable. They have little knowledge of sex and of adult sexuality and can in no way be held responsible for adult’s responses. Even an understanding or knowledge of sex does not in any way justify negative labelling and putting the blame on the child. A prostitute too can be raped or eve-teased and the law will come to her aid. By blaming children in different ways for what they suffer we only shift the responsibility from the abuser to the child.
In the case of a child there is no ‘consent’. As per law, any sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 16 years amounts to rape.
When children do report abuse, often their credibility is called into question, and their trust and confidence is again abused. A child’s sense of guilt may be preyed upon to make her or him think that in some way they have caused the abuse by their own behaviour towards the abuser.
Source: Semantics or Substance? Subgroup against the Sexual Exploitation of Children, NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, January 2005
Impact of Sexual Abuse on Children
The impact of abuse may be short term and long term:
• Physical injury in the form of scratches, bites, cuts, bleeding in the genitals, or any other form of physical hurt.
• Children often suffer from fear, guilt, depression, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction and show gradual withdrawal from the family.
• Many victims also encounter problems in their adult relationships and in developing adequate sexual relationships.
• Over and above the sexual abuse that a child experiences, there is also an abuse of their trust that leaves them disturbed for a long time, sometimes for the rest of their life and affects their relationships in the long-run, unless treated psychologically.
MYTH: Sometimes it becomes necessary to punish children in order to teach them discipline. Parents and teachers have a right to discipline their children.
FACT: Spare the rod and spoil the child is what most adults have grown up believing.
Adults who were beaten by their parents and teachers always feel it is their right to do so. They often forget the trauma which they had undergone when they were young and were subjected to physical and degrading forms of punishment.
Corporal punishment is often used as a measure to discipline children. Children are at the receiving end from parents, teachers and non-teaching school authorities. Almost all schools inflict corporal punishments on students for various reasons and most parents beat their children.
In the name of discipline, children are known to have had their bones and teeth broken, their hair pulled out and forced into acts of humiliation.
Corporal punishment is defined as the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child pain, not for the purpose of injury but for correction.
Types of Corporal Punishment-
1. Making the children stand as a wall chair.
2. Keeping the school bags on their heads.
3. Making them stand for the whole day in the sun.
4. Make the children kneel down and do the work.
5. Making them stand on a bench.
6. Making them stand with hands raised.
7. Hold a pencil in their mouth and stand.
8. Holding their ears with hands passed under the legs.
9. Tying the children’s hands.
10. Making them do sit-ups.
11. Canning and pinching.
12. Twisting the ears.
1. Slapping by the opposite sex.
2. Scolding, abusing and humiliating.
3. Label the child according to her or his misbehaviour and send her or him around the school.
4. Make them stand at the back of the class and told to complete the work.
5. Suspending them from school for a couple of days.
6. Pinning paper on their back and labelling them “I am a fool”, “I am a donkey” etc.
7. Teacher takes the child to every class she goes and humiliates the child.
8. Removing the shirts of the boys.
1. Detention during the break and lunch.
2. Locking them in a dark room.
3. Call for parents or asking the children to bring explanatory letters from the parents.
4. Sending them home or keeping the children outside the school gate.
5. Making the children sit on the floor in the classroom.
6. Making the child clean the premises.
7. Making the child run around the building or in the playground.
8. Sending the children to the Principal.
9. Making them teach in the class.
10. Making them stand till the teacher comes.
11. Giving oral warnings and letters in the diary or calendar.
12. Threatening to give TC for the child.
13. Asking them to miss games or other activities.
14. Deducting marks.
15. Treating three late comings equal to one day absence from school.
16. Giving excessive imposition.
17. Make the children pay fines.
18. Not allowing them into the class.
19. Sitting on the floor for one period for a day, week or month.
20. Placing black marks on their disciplinary charts.
Source: Corporal Punishment Violation of Child Rights in Schools - Author - Prof. Maadabhushi Sridhar, Nalsar University Of Law, Hyderabad.
It has a negative impact on the psyche of young minds as it usually takes the shape of hatred, terror and fear in the nascent minds.
The punishment of such kind leads to creation of anger, resentment and low self-esteem. It contributes to feelings of helplessness and humiliation, robbing a child of her/his self-worth and self-respect, leading a child to withdrawal or aggression.
It teaches children violence and revenge as solutions to problems.
Children might imitate what the adults are doing. Children begin to believe that it is good to use violence and there is nothing wrong with it. Children may even assault their own parents or teachers in retaliation. Victims of corporal punishment during childhood are more likely to hit their children, spouses or friends in adulthood.
Corporal punishment is the most ineffective form of disciplining as it rarely motivates an individual. It does more harm than good to the child.
Punishment may deter a child from repeating the act of indiscipline to some extent, but it cannot improve her/his understanding of the subject or make her/him more intelligent.
In fact it has numerous negative consequences on the child.
Many street and working children have pointed out corporal punishment at school as one of the reasons for running away from school and also from their families and homes.
Right to discipline children cannot be at the cost of children’s right to development and participation. In fact children’s right to participation alone can set the tone for discipline.
In any case there is no religion or law that allows corporal punishment. Nobody has any legal or moral authority to physically punish children simply because they are unable to control the situation in any other way.
• Discipline can never be taught, it is learnt.
• Discipline is an attitude, character, responsibility or commitment.
• Discipline is basically internal, while the attempt to impose it would be an external process.
MYTH: India’s education system has made the world curious of the brains we produce. As a result, many Indian scholars, scientists, engineers and other professionals have successfully settled in the West and a number of them are doing very well for themselves in the country too. Strict discipline along with a competitive examination system has been the way to success. All parents want to put their children into schools that produce good results.
FACT: There is no doubt that India produces the world’s finest brains. But does the credit really go to the present day schooling or the education system or to the sheer will power of some students to do well in life despite family and social pressures? The pressures of cut throat competition, rising expectations from our children and students, good results being the main stake for the reputation of a school or a teacher and inability to help children cope with all this has led to increasing depression amongst students, leading to growing number of student suicides. The brains are dying and if we do not open our eyes to this reality now, we may lose out on a whole generation of bright young people very soon.
For some students, there is no life after CBSE exams
Within five days of the CBSE declaring the Class X and XII results, half a dozen students in the Capital have committed suicide. And while you are reading this, there could be many others contemplating ending their lives because they have failed to clear the exams.
The rising incidence of suicides among students is a manifestation of a deeper malaise. “Earlier, people did not associate depression with adolescence. There is a nascent realisation that adolescents also suffer from depression and more so”, points out Dr. R C Jiloha, Professor and Head, Psychiatry, G B Pant and Maulana Azad Medical College. The problem gets aggravated because at this tender age they neither have the sagacity nor the experience to reconcile with failure.
… Says Ms. Sharma, a tele-counsellor, “It is vital for parents and teachers to recognise the need for counselling. … Exam results are not the end of the world; there is life after exams, even if you have performed badly. That is what the parents and the teachers need to understand,” says Ms Sharma.
Source: Smriti Kak, The Tribune, Chandigarh, India, Friday, May 31, 2002, http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20020531/ncr1.htm
No doubt parents want to send their children to schools that produce good results. But has anyone asked them if this is fine at the cost of the well-being or the very existence of their child? No parent will want to lose her or his child. Indeed it just shows that parents too need to be counselled. But if the pressure from schools continues, if all PTAs are only about how well or badly the child is doing in her/his class and if teachers continue to compare one child with another and neglect the emotional and psychological needs of their students, nothing can ever help change the situation. The schools will have to make the first move and also perhaps start counselling the parents along with children.
MYTH: Only children from poor families run away to become street children. Children living on streets are bad children.
FACT: Any child could runaway if she/he is not taken good care of. Every child has a right to live with dignity and any parent/family/school/village that denies this right may have to lose out on their child(ren).
A large section of street children comprises runaway children, who leave their home in search of better life opportunity or, for the glamour of metros or, succumb to peer pressure or, run away from the rigours of the education system that their parents force them to be in or, escape domestic violence and enter cities where they live in most pathetic conditions.
Street children are never bad. It is the situation in which they are living that is bad.
These children are often unable to find even two square meals a day for themselves and are most vulnerable to abuse. Once on the streets, they enter the vicious cycle of exploitation and related problems. On coming in contact with older children the new and younger ones soon engage in rag picking or other forms of work easily available or in illegal activities like pick-pocketing, begging, drug peddling etc.
Children runaway from their homes for many reasons
• Better life opportunities.
• Glamour of metros.
• Peer pressure.
• Unhealthy family relations.
• Abandoned by their parents.
• Fear of being beaten up by parents or teachers.
• Sexual abuse.
• Caste discrimination.
• Gender discrimination.
• Discrimination due to HIV/AIDS.
From a study, ‘Sexual Abuse of Street Children Brought to an Observation Home’ by Deepti Pagare, G.S. Meena, R.C. Jiloha and M.M. Singh, Indian Paediatrics, Department of Community Medicine and Psychiatry, Maulana.
Azad College, conducted study in 2003-2004, to assess the magnitude and pattern of sexual abuse among male inmates of an observation home in Delhi, revealed that majority of boys were runaways and 38.1% had suffered sexual abuse. On clinical examination, 61.1% showed physical signs and 40.2% showed signs of sexual abuse. Forcible sex was reported by 44.4% of victims and 25% had signs suggestive of sexually transmitted diseases. Strangers were the most common perpetrators of sexual abuse.
MYTH: HIV/AIDS is an adult issue. Children have nothing to do with it and therefore need not know what it is all about. By informing them about HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, sexuality and such issues we will only corrupt their minds. It is only when children come from families with some history of HIV/AIDS that one has to be careful and keep them away as far as possible in order to avoid the spread of HIV/AIDS.
FACT: HIV/AIDS does not discriminate on the basis of age, skin, colour, caste, class, religion, geographical location, moral turpitude, good or bad deeds. All humans can become infected with HIV.
HIV i.e. human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS is transmitted through contact with an HIV positive person’s infected body fluids, such as semen, pre-ejaculate fluid, vaginal fluids, blood, or breast milk. HIV can also be transmitted through needles contaminated with HIV-infected blood, including needles used for injecting drugs, tattooing or body piercing.
Millions of children are today either infected or affected with HIV/AIDS. Children are becoming orphans and are deprived of parental care and protection due to untimely deaths of their parents.
While mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS is the most common way of infection among children, with increasing number of cases of child sexual abuse and incest, many more children are likely to fall prey to the disease. Drug abuse among children and young people also poses a threat. In such a situation it is not fair to withhold HIV/AIDS related information from children and deny them their right to know how they can protect themselves.
In Asia, India has the largest number of people with HIV/AIDS, followed by China. According to UNAIDS, 0.16 million children in the 0-14 years age group are infected with HIV in India.
According to news reports, six year old Babita Raj, whose father died of AIDS, was barred from attending a government-aided primary school in Parappanangadi, Kerala, after the parent-teacher association and school authorities protested, … Officials reportedly refused to readmit her even after the intervention of social workers and local government authorities, who obtained a medical certificate stating that she was HIV negative. The local government school also refused to allow her to attend.
Source: Future Forsaken, Human Rights Watch, pg. 73, 2004
We need to understand that HIV cannot be transmitted by touching an infected kid or by sitting next to the child or by hugging and kissing or playing with an infected person.
It is true that children’s right to information and participation is based on the principles of ‘best interest of the child’ and therefore, age-specificities need to be borne in mind while discussing sexuality, reproductive health or HIV/AIDS with children. The fact is that we are not prepared in our own minds to deal with questions our children might have and therefore find excuses to avoid any discussion. It is important to prepare ourselves rather than negate the importance of life-skill education, which indeed includes sex education.
Instead of educating people about HIV/AIDS, in the past many schools have thrown out children simply because they came from families with some history of HIV/AIDS or because there was some apprehension of a family member being HIV positive. Denying them access to basic services and human rights on grounds of HIV/AIDS, amounts to discrimination. The Constitution of India guarantees right to equality and non-discrimination and those who promote inequality or discrimination on any grounds are liable to punishment.
Knowledge about a person being HIV-positive should be used to seek early treatment that can help the person stay healthy longer and enable her/him not to pass on the virus to someone else. In fact if children who seem to be at real risk are thrown out of schools there is no way to monitor their health and provide them assistance, and this way the risk to others may be even more. Discrimination will not put an end to this growing menace.
MYTH: Untouchability and caste discrimination are history now. In any case Dalit or Scheduled Caste/Scehduled Tribe students never face any caste discrimination with reservations making their life easy.
FACT: This is not true. A person’s first encounter of caste discrimination is at a very early age. She/he faces discrimination in school, on the playground, in the hospital and the list can be endless. We can address the practice of discrimination against the poor and underpriveleged sections of the society such as the scheduled castes/tribes by ensuring them their economic, social and cultural rights, particularly in terms of access to education, health care and social security services; programmes for child labourers, and the ending of degrading practices such as manual scavenging.
MYTH: DISABILITY is a curse. A disabled child has no worth. Such children are a burden on the family, they are economically unproductive and education is of no use to them. In fact most disabilities have no cure.
FACT: Disability has nothing to do with doings of the past. It is a deformity caused either during pregnancy due to lack of proper care or sometimes the child genetically inherits it. Lack of proper medical care when needed, lack of proper immunization, accident or injury are other causes that cannot be ignored.
A mentally or physically handicapped person is usually a subject of sympathy. We forget that as an individual a disabled person too has rights and more than sympathy, what she/he requires is empathy.
Often we associate disability with stigma. A family having a mentally ill person is ostracized and looked down upon by the community. Education is important for each and every child irrespective of the child’s disability as it helps in the overall development of the child.
Disabled children have special needs and we need to address these needs. If given opportunity they can also learn life-supporting skills. Disability becomes a tragedy only if we fail to provide the things which one needs to lead one’s life.
Barriers faced by a disabled child in the education system
• Lack of special schools for both physically and mentally challenged children.
• Disabled children are usually slow learners. Schools do not have special teachers who can take care of the needs of such children.
• Insensitive attitude of the peer group. Usually the physically and mentally challenged children are a subject of mockery as they are either slow learners or have physical deformity.
• Absence of disabled-friendly infrastructure, including ramps, special chairs and toilet facilties.
Through appropriate training a disabled child can be taught some skills which can provide her/him an opportunity to earn a decent living.
Moreover, if detected and diagnosed early, most disabilities can be cured or can be prevented from becoming incurable. These include mental disorders which can be treated and prevented with timely intervention.
Conflict and man-made disasters
Every school and every teacher will have to take special care in situations of conflict, political strife, war or natural disaster. Children living in such situations need special care and protection, which is possible only if the community realizes this.
Source: Portal Content Team