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Joining hands for Inclusive Education in Northeast

© CBM India
Left to right: Mr Carmo Noronha, Fr. Alex Philip, Mr Fredrick Kharkongor, Mr Suman Kumar, Dr Sara Varughese and Ms Claudia Futterknecht.

To increase participation of children with disabilities through inclusive education in the states in the North East Region of India, CBM India and over a dozen Non-Governmental Organisations have joined hands through an ambitious Regional Action on Inclusive Education North East project, unveiled on February 26, 2016.

Every child has a right to go to school and this includes children with disabilities. This entitlement is guaranteed in India by the Right to Education Act, 2009, and an integral part of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) for universalisation of education, but a number of challenges have slowed progress in its realisation. 

Through its multi-stakeholder Include Vidya Campaign, CBM has been working on creating awareness on the need and implementation of inclusive education in government schools. The campaign brings together partners, networks and education departments to collectively work on advocacy and capacity building towards a solution oriented approach to enable children with disabilities to study beside their non-disabled peers in mainstream schools.

Taking this collaborative approach forward, a number of leading NGOs have come together under for a project called Regional Action on Inclusive Education in North East.

The project spread across Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, and Tripura, will leverage SSA to focus specifically on inclusive education and improve the quality of education for children with disabilities in government/government supported schools. This will be done through building capacity of teachers and education departments, sharing of learning and teaching resources, developing common resources and tapping into the allocated public resources.

Unveiling the project

A lady in sarre and a men in suit and tie, holding a book ©CBM India
Mr Fredrick Kharkangor officially launched the project and released a Bi-lingual Sign Language
In the presence of around 300 teachers, rehabilitation professionals, government officials and members of non-profit organisations, the project was launched in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong. 

“Good education opens the minds of children to accept and include those different from themselves. Exclusion happens when barriers impose restriction on children with disabilities. Every child can learn and we need an education system that can make it possible for them,”said Dr. Sara Varughese, Managing Trustee, CBM India Trust.

Ms Claudia Futterknecht International Programme Director, Light for the world, said: “I am excited that we launched this programme. Yes it took a year-and-a-half of intensive preparation and now it’s a time to celebrate. Lots of work to do but seeing the participation I am already convinced this project would work.”

Fr. Alex Philip representative of Liliane Fonds (Jan Vikas Samiti in India) said: “Education is the key to change, however, a group was kept apart by giving beautiful names like special, differently abled, etc., but whatever the name we give, it is keeping them apart…. As a society we all are equal and everyone should have equal access to all facilities that bring positive changes. The beauty of this project is a collaboration with three large organisations and their many partners.”  

Mr Fredrick Kharkongor, Commissioner Secondary Education and Project Director of SSA and RMSA, Government of Meghalaya, shared his experience growing up with his brother, who has a disability, and emphasised the importance of inclusive education. Recalling the discussions in the first planning meeting he attended a year ago he appreciated the efforts of all organisations involved in the project and expressed full government support towards the success of the project.

On the occasion, Mr Fredrick Kharkangor officially launched the project and released a Bi-lingual Sign Language Dictionary (English/Hindi) developed by Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University in collaboration with CBM India.

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