The Indian context
Deaf children in India are particularly vulnerable, often neglected by family and at the receiving end of abuse and insults from neighbours and friends. They are often unable to communicate with hearing people, leaving them feeling isolated and rejected by their peers and family members. Deaf adults are often overlooked during promotions in the workplace and do not receive proper support in the form of accessible buildings, supportive colleagues, and assistive technology services. Even the fundamental right to education is denied to many children with disabilities.
Owing to the growing disability rights movement in India, it has one of the most progressive policy frameworks in the developing world. The country enacted the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 to enforce ‘Free and Compulsory’ education for all children up to elementary level as the legal obligation of the state. The RTE Act made the Government, local bodies, and parents the prime duty bearers for compulsory education of children by ensuring school admission and regular attendance.
Samagra Shikha Abhiyan (SSA) is the Government of India’s flagship programme for the achievement of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE).The policy promotes inclusive education for children with special educational needs. However, efforts are limited by the challenge of identifying these children and their specific learning requirements and limited resources in schools – such as the provision of specially trained educators and therapeutic learning tools.
Consequently, schools regularly refuse admission to children with disabilities. Those who are admitted mostly do not complete primary or secondary education. Moreover, teaching often fails to result in increased knowledge and skills, creating an increasing gap in learning between disabled and non-disabled children as education advances. The situation is even worse for girls, who are stigmatised for their gender as well as their disability.
Our activities with deaf children and their families
The Child in Need Institute (CINI) has been working with international and national organisations and government stakeholders for 30 years to improve the lives of vulnerable children and adolescents in urban spaces. Through our life cycle approach, CINI aims to create an enabling environment for these young people to become self-reliant through education – helping them to achieve their rights to health, education, nutrition and protection using a comprehensive approach.
CINI believes that inclusive education means ensuring quality education for all students irrespective of caste, religion, creed, gender, race, economic background, and disability, by being responsive, supportive, respectful and accepting of the diverse needs of the students. Therefore, all children/students should be enrolled in general government schools and learn and take part in all aspects of school life.
The challenges faced by deaf children and youth pushed CINI to work for their empowerment and advocacy to ensure they are included as members of society. Emphasis was given to inclusive education and its implementation in local schools.
With technical and financial support from Deaf Child Worldwide UK, CINI began supporting the education of deaf children. The role and importance of parents in contributing to the improvement of deaf children’s lives soon became apparent. Participation of teachers and parents to ensure deaf children’s inclusion in community is essential for the children’s holistic development. Parents are not only role models for their children but can also guide and help them to learn right and wrong.
CINI focused on developing community and parental awareness and building their skills and knowledge to support deaf children to reach their full potential. Building the capacity of parents to understand effective communication, inclusive education, tools and methodologies for language, numeric and social skills development, rights and entitlements, has enabled them to provide the requisite support. Increasingly, deaf children have been enrolled in mainstream schools, ensuring their participation in the learning process and other school activities.
The role of parents
Dynamic parents who attended CINI training were mobilised to form a support group of ‘Resource Parents’ to address queries, exchange information, express views, and acquire knowledge regarding disability schemes and scholarships, along with providing academic and learning support to their children. The support group formed by 15 mothers in 2017 provided coaching support at centres for parents to help their children learn Indian Sign Language (ISL) at home.
Through the years, the mothers have become more self-aware, confident, and independent. They stay updated on facilities for people with disabilities, which has led to the support group becoming bigger and better. Currently, 36 parents actively work together to understand the comprehensive challenges faced by deaf children in fulfilling their rights, and function as a support group for each other and other parents to answer questions, spread awareness, and most importantly provide learning support to deaf children.
The difficulties faced during admission of deaf children into general schools have been significantly reduced by the resource parents group. They are establishing relationships with school teachers and Sarva Shikshya Mission Resource centres, thereby facilitating smooth enrolment of deaf children. Parents can now directly communicate with the teachers in cases of urgency and need.
Using a training of trainers (TOT) approach, resource parents learn about child rights, child safeguarding policy and the rights of people with disability in India. They also receive training at the intermediate ISL level and on academic orientation, focusing on lesson adaptation, individual education planning and supporting the development of teaching learning materials.
Resource parents have been instrumental in supporting other parents to provide extra tuition for their children to help them develop their learning and to ensure they receive their entitlements. In the last 4 years, 231 deaf children have been retained and supported out of which 118 have enrolled in government formal schools, receiving a stipend, benefits, certificates, aids and appliances, books, and learning materials from different sources.
The achievements of enrolling deaf children in schools and promoting inclusive education in the community are a small but impactful step to developing a future for all children with disabilities. The positivity and efforts of resource parents are a source of inspiration for other parents to join in with the effort.
The transformation of parents from a state of apprehensive faith to poised leaders who are committed towards bettering the lives of their deaf children is encouraging. They are now setting goals and a vision for their work, becoming a self-sustaining group and inching towards registering themselves as an independent body.
More information about the project can be found on the following websites: