Education

Article 24 of the CRPD provides for the life-long right to education for PWDs. The State’s obligations include non-exclusion from general education system on the primary, secondary and higher level, provision for reasonable accommodation, tailoring the mode of education to individual’s requirements, undertaking appropriate measures to employ teachers, including teachers with disabilities, who are qualified in sign language and/or Braille, and training professionals and staff who work at all levels of education.

Laws and Policies Promoting Disability Rights

The Disability Rights Act [1] refers ‘general education’ for those studying with non-disabled students and ‘special education’ for disabled people with special needs, requiring extra care and taught through a different mode of education. It guarantees the right to ‘access to education’ for every disabled person (Section 16 (g)) including the right to participate in either general or special education. A disabled person is entitled to an appropriate environment and access to all opportunities during their course of study (Section 16(d)).

The head/authority of an educational institution is prohibited from preventing admission of a disabled person on the basis of discrimination, and the Act details the consequences for doing so (the committee under the 2013 Act can send recommendations to the regulatory committee of the said educational institution to take the necessary steps against the head/authority concerned (Section 33(1) of the Act. A disabled person who faces discrimination during admission may register a complaint to the School Committee or to the District Committee (Section 36).

The Act also requires that all public places including schools and educational institutions are accessible to people with disabilities (both adults and children) who must have unrestricted access to the institution’s services and facilities (Part 5, Schedule).

The Act also secures provisions for relaxing the age limit for school going children with disabilities, creating a larger quota in educational institutions for student with disabilities, providing training to the employees of educational institutes and equipping institutes with necessary facilities, increasing exam duration for examinees with disabilities or appointing a writer as an alternative and providing disabled students with suitable reading materials (Part 9, Schedule). It also requires use of Bengali sign language for the benefit those who have hearing and speech difficulties in all places including in all educational institutions and appointment of a speech language therapist where deemed necessary (Part 4, Schedule).

Furthermore, penalties for cruelty to children are set out in the Children Act 1974, and such actions may also constitute specific offences under the Bangladesh Penal Code 1860, including, among others, of hurt or grievous hurt or confinement under Sections 319, 320 and 340. [Section 34 of the Children Act, 1974] [1]

The National Education Policy 2010 expressly addresses [2] disabled children, providing for accessibility of all schools to disabled children including necessary facilities such as separate toilets/washrooms (Clause 21), that the needs/problems of a disabled child must be dealt with on a priority basis (Clause 22) and that one teacher from every school/PTI should receive skills training to communicate with a child with special needs (Clause 23).

The National Children Policy 2011 [3] provides for a Special Education System for students unable to gain entry into the mainstream education due to unavoidable circumstances (Clause 6.8.3) and requires appropriate institutional activity to be taken and for accessibility of all infrastructure, services and facilities (Clauses 6.8.4 and 6.8.6(. It also provides for special programmes for Autistic children (Section 6.9).

The National Plan of Action NPA-II (2003-2015) [4] proposes that all disabled and disadvantaged children aged 6-10 years shall be enrolled and complete the primary cycle and achieve quality education by the year 2015 (Clauses 5.A and 5.1).

The National ICT Policy 2009, [5] developed by the Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology, refers equitable participation in nation- building through access to ICT for all including PWDs. [Section D. 1]. It also aims to ensure use of ICT tools to provide access to education and research for persons with disabilities and special needs (Section E 4.8).

The Sixth Five Year Plan FY 2011- FY2015 [6]by the General Economics Division, Planning Commission, Ministry of Planning, provides for enabling and integrating PWDs in all spheres of society and includes provisions for stipend programmes, subsistence allowance and skill training for PWDs in its strategy plan.

Moreover, circulars circulated by the Director, Directorate of primacy and mass education (dated 21.04.2008, 18.03.2010 & 23.08.2010) [7] to ensure the appropriate manners and attitude towards the children student. It was directed to the school managing committee to inform all concern in the Government and non-Government primary school to prevent corporal punishment as well as to keep away from all sorts of corporal punishment in the school as it has very severe impacts on child’s development and growth. It was also requested that all concerns should work on building awareness against corporal punishment.

Exam facilities for the students with disabilities: exam duration for examinees with disabilities by one hour, and more for students with cerebral palsy. Furthermore, only blind students can use the services of a writer and the process they have to go through with the Board is extremely cumbersome and time consuming.

Gaps in Laws and Policies

The Primary Education (Compulsory) Act, 1990 allowed scope for admission to be refused to a child on the basis of:

  • “illness or any unavoidable reason”, or if admission was an “impossibility If a primary education officer decides that it is not “desirable” to admit a child because s/he is “mentally challenged”.

There are in general no adapted curricula for children with disabilities. Educational institutions, especially primary schools, often do not admit disabled children. Where they do, they rarely provide the facilities needed for different types of disability. Children with psychosocial disabilities get even fewer opportunities to be in inclusive education.

The Bangladesh Primary Education Act 1990 makes school admission mandatory for children aged 6-10.

Situation Analysis and Survey Findings

Access to education for disabled children: Primary education is now free and mandatory for children aged 6-10. The government has also set up and registered a total of 4,500 schools so far. A total of 11,935.37 crore, development and non-development budgets combined, for the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education that would benefit 83,000 disabled children and enable them to attend primary school [8]. About TK 292.13 billion (approx. 3,756,163,720 USD) was allocated for fiscal year 2014-15. Of the allocation, TK 136.73 billion (approx. 1,758,053,830 USD) has been allocated for primary education and TK 155.4 billion (approx.1,998,109,890 USD) for tertiary and higher education for increasing the number of teachers, improving school buildings, printing and delivering school books and providing scholarships. According to government statistics [9], 94.6% of school-age children attend school although there are no statistics for the number of them who are disabled.

The following figure shows the survey results from respondents on the number of children that they thought were denied admission and the number for those who have been suspended due to their disabilities

Fig1_EducationFig 1: Has any child with disabilities been suspended from school and has any child been denied admission in a school/education institution due to his/her disability?

The Directorate of Public Education’s Circular on Mainstreaming, 2007, mandates that students with “special needs” be admitted in all government schools and given learning tools and other accommodations on a priority basis [10]. In practice, such tools and facilities are not usually provided, and educational institutes, especially primary schools, do not admit disabled , children in particular children who have sight, speech or hearing difficulties.

Fig2_EducationFig 2: Can visually impaired children study in schools the same way as non-disabled children?
Fig3_EducationFig 3: Can children with speech difficulties study in schools in the same way as non-disabled children?

Survey results showed that 19 % of the respondents were of the opinion that children with visual impairments could not study in schools due the schools not being disabled friendly and 21% said that braille was not used in school. 28% of those surveyed said that there was no specialized teacher in school while 41% were of the opinion that there was a lack of educational equipment in schools. Another 18 % of children with speech and hearing difficulties complained of an absence of specialized teachers while 57 % said felt that that teachers were not given appropriate training to help them deal with disabled children with speech and hearing difficulties. 38.81 % of those surveyed were of the opinion that availability of govt. stipend/disability allowance would ensure full participation of disabled children in schools while 18.72 % said that assigning trained teachers in schools would play an encouraging role. 48.85 % on the other hand felt that availability of disabled friendly education equipment was necessary to boost participation. Although in 2013, all primary school text Book have been converted in accessible format (Multimedia book,Braille Book, Unicode text,E-book etc) and have been made available through National E-Content repository (Jatio e-tothokosh) class [11], the same has not yet been done for at all levels of the educational system. The high rate of ‘drop out’ of school-going disabled children was identified as a problem due to bullying by fellow classmates and teachers, with child marriage being a cause reason for drop outs by girls with disabilities. The expense of sending a disabled child to school was a barrier for poor parents [12].

Lack of Awareness leading to insensitive attitude towards disabled school going children: Apart from bullying, disabled school children face harassment and physical abuse which hampers their psychological development. On the 13 January 2012, a news about an autistic child (12 yrs. of age) being subject to overnight physical abuse was reported on the national daily “Amar Desh” and “Kaler Kontho”. The child was a student of the Special School for the Disabled of Mirpur Secor No. 14 of Dhaka who was beaten overnight by the security guards of Dhaka Monipur School and College when he got lost at the school premises. He was later rescued with injuries and had to undergo treatment at the Banga bandhu Medical College and Hospital [13].

Case Study1 [14] :

Shankar Chakraborty and others vs. Govt. of Bangladesh and others

Writ Petition No: 1576 of 2012

On 12.02.2012, BLAST, along with Shankar Chakraborty and others, filed a writ challenging failure of the concerned respondents to take timely action to prevent the continued harassment and subsequent suicide of Modhushudhon Chokrabarty, the son of the petitioner, and a student of the Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Medical College, Bogra.

The petitioners argued that the concerned respondents failed to comply with their statutory and constitutional duties to put in place measures to prevent harassment of students with disabilities in educational institutions, both government and non-government, involving cruel, humiliating and degrading punishments and to investigate any such allegations and take action against those found responsible, and provide redress to those affected amounting to breach of their statutory duties under the Bangladesh Protibondhi Kallyan Ain (Bangladesh Disability Welfare Act) 2001 and a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 27, 31, 32 and 35 of the Constitution.

On 18.03.2012, a Rule was issued by the Hon’ble High Court Division directing the respondents to provide information regarding the measures taken, if any, to ensure that students with disabilities are able to study in educational institutions without discrimination or harassment.

This matter is currently pending for hearing.

 

Access to Education/Vocational Training for Adults [15]: Many disabled people lack access to education, with most even lacking primary level of education.

The Ministry of Social Welfare’s integrated Special Education Policy on Disability 2009 provides facilities to promote education for persons with disabilities. Under this policy, teachers and staff of special educational institutions are receiving 100 percent pay and allowances from government from February 2010 [16]. However educational institutes offer limited opportunities to the disabled to gain vocational and technical skills. In general, disabled learners are hampered by the lack of a disability-friendly environment and other essential elements. These include:

  • The lack of essential accessibility features, skilled teachers and disability sensitized school-actors (including management committees, teachers and peer students [17]. Braille text books and materials, including writing frames and stylus, are not generally available and when they are, their expense means most PWDs cannot afford them. Although some educational institutions provide specialized education to disabled students studying under the General and Special mode of education, this is not always adequate.
  • There is also a significant shortage in the number of trained teachers who have the capability to communicate and teach students in sign language as well as a shortage of supplies of specialized stationery and materials (such as books in Braille) for disabled students.
  • Department of Social Service-run schools for the visually-impaired are generally under-staffed; teachers in schools for the hearing-impaired may not be trained in Bangla sign language [18]. There is only one high school for deaf students, and the distance and transportation for deaf students makes access to education a challenge.
  • Non-implementation of the 2013 Act means no steps are taken to prevent harassment and discriminatory behaviour in educational institutions.
  • The educational curriculum have which has not been tailored for disabled students.
  • Visually impaired children face difficulties obtaining permission for writers to write exams on their behalf.

Accessibility issues: Most educational institutions lack a separate entrance and a wheelchair-accessible washroom/toilet. Most such buildings have not been built in accordance with the Building Code. Under the State’s Primary Education Development Program [19], about 10,000 schools across the country are being rebuilt or renovated, and in each case the design includes setting up of ramps at least to the ground floor. According to the designs, the running corridors are supposed to lead to toilets, located at a side of the school building, which would improve accessibility. Unfortunately, in many cases the designs have been altered locally during construction without considering accessibility options. In some cases, the ramps have been built without earth filling at its base, making them completely unusable to a wheelchair user. Reasonable accommodation is not made for such disabled students and the location of schools providing special education is another barrier to education for the disabled:

Fig4_EducationFig 4: How far (in miles) is the school for special education from your area?

Recommendations

’Special education’, remains expensive and inaccessible for most disabled people. Currently, general schools are not adapted to the needs of disabled people and the Disability Rights Act is barely known about, let alone followed. According to our respondents, the following recommendations are particularly important [20]:

  • Coordination within Ministries: The Ministry of Education should collaborate with the Ministry of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Housing and Public Works to ensure accessibility of educational institute premises as well as educational curriculum along with any information related to accessibility.
  • Ensure implementation of Section 16, Schedule 4 and Schedule 6 of the 2013 Act to enable disabled students to have the benefit of being able to access information and communication in their educational institutions.
  • Implement Section 33 of the 2013 Act which allows for taking action against authorities/heads of educational institutions who create a barrier to disabled people accessing education.
  • Accessibility: The premises of all educational institutions especially those being built under the Local Government’s Primary Educational Development (PED) must be built with a separate access, and features in all parts of the premises including classrooms etc to allow easy access for disabled people, as well as wheelchair access ramps at every entrance of the building and lifts. Where a lift cannot be installed, the authorities concerned must ensure that the disabled student’s classroom is on the ground floor of the building. An assistant must always available to assist students when in need. Separate washrooms/toilets should be available for students with disabilities. The concerned authorities must ensure strict compliance with the National Building Code and refuse planning permission unless these requirements are met.
  • Overcome the challenge of Cost: A private university, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology is developing a proto type braille printer which if successful would significantly reduce the cost of braille printing in Bangladesh. Also, another Bangla Braille software (Duxbury Braille translator) which have been privately developed which and is available commercially in Bangladesh. The State must explore these various avenues to ensure the cheap printing of educational materials in Braille.
  • Training: The Ministry of Education must ensure that teachers and staff of educational institutions are trained on the needs of disabled students, on sign language, and on empathetic behaviors to allow them to appropriately deal with students with disabilities. All teachers must be aware of and know how to use different stationery and reading materials needed for students with disabilities. At least one teacher in every class must be trained to deal with students with disability in the class (especially beneficial for students with cerebral palsy). More sign language therapists must be employed in educational institutions. Recently, the government has taken initiatives to conduct inclusive publishing training in September’ 2014 for publishers to enable disability friendly publishing in the form of accessible Books content. Similar trainings must be conducted for all concerned in all levels of the educational system.Awareness raising: The non-disabled population must be taught about the rights of disabled people with a focus on ensuring that parents understand that it is wrong to confine a disabled child or to marry them off early. Educational institutions, need to ensure the security of students with disabilities, and to take measures against the bullying and sexual harassment that disabled students face. The government must include a review of how schools treat their disabled students as part of its regular inspections.
  • Maintain statistics by the Ministry of Education on enrollment and dropout rates of disabled children.
  • Set up institutions for specialized education for disabled students and training institutes to offer vocational training to disabled people with all institutes to be affordable and in every district. At present the few districts that provide specialized education only provide education to blind students.
  • Other recommendations:
  • Make available free Braille/ Audio and Video materials to all disabled disabled students at every academic stages.
  • Relax the age limit for admission of adult students with disabilities into institutes offering higher education.
  • Increase exam duration for examinees with disabilities by one hour, and more for students with cerebral palsy.
  • Allow disabled examinees to use the services of a writer.
  • Set up a separate admission quota for disabled students for schools, colleges and universities.

[1] Section 34, Children Act:

Penalty for cruelty to child.-If any person over the age of sixteen years, who has the custody, charge or care of any child assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons or exposes such child or causes such child to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned or exposed in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to his health, including loss of sight or hearing or injury to limb or organ of the body and any mental derangement, such person shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to Taka one thousand or with both.

 

[1] Section 34, Children Act:

Penalty for cruelty to child.-If any person over the age of sixteen years, who has the custody, charge or care of any child assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons or exposes such child or causes such child to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned or exposed in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary suffering or injury to his health, including loss of sight or hearing or injury to limb or organ of the body and any mental derangement, such person shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to Taka one thousand or with both.

[1] Rights and Protections of Persons with Disabilities Act 2013. Website: http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/
[2] National Education Policy 2010. Website: http://www.moedu.gov.bd/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=338&Itemid=416
[3] National Children Policy, 2011. Website: http://mowca.portal.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/mowca.portal.gov.bd/policies/ 7c672d20_d211_48cb_8e6b_702f21c799c5/National-Child-Policy-2011-English-04.12.2012.pdf
[4] http://old.mopme.gov.bd/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=451&Itemid=471
[5] http://www.bcs.org.bd/img/upload/page/11.pdf
[6] http://www.plancomm.gov.bd/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/SFYP_Part-2.pdf
[7] http://www.supremecourt.gov.bd/web/documents/297208_WP%20No.5684%20of%202010%20_C.Punishment_-final.pdf
[8] Budget speech 2013-1014, http://www.mof.gov.bd/en/budget/13_14/budget_speech/speech_en.pdf
[9] Budget speech 2013-1014, http://www.mof.gov.bd/en/budget/13_14/budget_speech/speech_en.pdf
[10] http://archive.thedailystar.net/forum/2011/December/disability.htm
[11] http://www.infokosh.gov.bd
[12] Page 12, Consolidated Report 7 FGDs, 1 October 2013.
[13] See Annex {Will insert further details}
[14] See Annex {Will Insert further details}
[15] Page 12, Consolidated Report 7 FGDs, 1 October 2013.
[16] http://www.mof.gov.bd/en/budget/10_11/mtbf/en/MBF_29_Social%20Welfare-FY11_C.pdf?phpMyAdmin=GqNisTr562C5oxdV%2CEruqlWwoM5
[17] (CSID)
[18] http://archive.thedailystar.net/forum/2011/December/disability.htm
[19] http://www.worldbank.org/projects/P113435/primary-education-development-program-iii?lang=en
[20] Page 12, Consolidated Report 7 FGDs, 1 October 2013.

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