About hundred visually challenged persons gathered at the historical Federation Hall of Kolkata today to raise their voice against the neglect of special education and Braille system. Former students and teachers of blind schools attended this civic convention. Shri Animesh Bhattacharya, English teacher of Calcutta Blind School, expressed concern over the low standard of education of the blind students coming from inclusive education. He was particularly concerned over their lack of Braille skills.
Shri Indranath Banerjee, history teacher of Blind Boys’ Academy, Narendrapur, pointed out that around twenty teaching posts are lying vacant in each of the renowned blind schools of Kolkata. He further stated that the state government is planning to abolish the teaching posts. Instead teachers at special schools would be appointed on a contract basis. Shri Jishu Debnath, convener of Forum for Students with Disabilities, criticized the poor infrastructure of the so-called specials schools recognized by the government.
Shri Mahima Ranjan Ganguly, a special educator from the district of Nadia, spoke of the miserable conditions of the special educators trying to provide support to students with special needs under the scheme of Sarbashiksha Abhijan. The special educators have to guide students with all kinds of disability, blindness, deafness, mental retardation and so on. He enumerated various problems how these special educators have to visit about fifty schools and maintain records of various types just for a paltry honourarium of Rs. 12,500/-.
Shri Sajal Debnath, Secretary, Helen Keller Smriti Vidyamandir, Krishnanagar, mentioned that the special schools conducted by different NGOs are forced to refrain from demanding sanction of teaching posts. Professor Tarun Das of Narasingha Dutta College, Howrah urged the audience to start a social campaign against the neglect of special education by the state government. He remembered the historical significance of the Federation Hall established during the Anti-Partition Movement in 1905 and expressed the hope that today’s convention would follow the historical precedence. Shri Anupam Chakraborty, Secretary of Blind Persons’ Association who presided over the convention, categorically stated that we are not against inclusive education. But it can be effective in the higher classes if the students are taught the basic skills like Braille and sign language at the early stage of the school.
The convention passed a resolution demanding teaching posts for special schools, transfer of special education from the Department of Mass Education Extension to the Department of School Education, full time appointment of special educators at special schools as teachers and so on. A committee was formed with Shri Saikat Kar and Shri Jishu Debnath as conveners. This committee would decide further course of action.