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The Success of Integrated Education in India

by Shivaji Kumar

The development and growth of education for visually disabled persons in India took a great leap forward with the involvement of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The tremendous growth in the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and increase in the range of their activities demonstrates that the resilience of civil society sector in initiating and implementing socially beneficial activities on a large scale. The main capital of the NGOs lies in their capacity to deliver services to the marginal, unorganized and silent minority sections of the society. Most of these organizations working for the education of visually disabled persons in India have sprung from local initiatives but some of them have transnational links.

The prospects of receiving a decent education in India half a century ago were very bleak for visually disabled persons. The idea of imparting of any kind of education was scoffed at and the solutions were found in the institutions of joint-extended family in a characteristic Indian way. However, the situation is changing rapidly for the better. This has been possible only with the initiatives of some NGOs that went beyond not only the traditional approach of isolating the social burden" in institutions established with the idea of "special needs be met through special measures" as was done in the West.

The adoption of new approach called integrated education" is opening up new vistas of opportunities for visually disabled persons. This new approach adopted by several NGOs like National Association for the Blind in Delhi (NAB) involved in the education of visually disabled is paying rich dividends at two levels-breaking the long-established psychological barriers towards integration into wider society of students themselves and generating social consciousness about needs and potential of this segment to contribute the the development and growth of social life. NAB provides boarding and schooling for students from distant areas and new entrants but arranges for their education in schools meant for sighted pupils after imparting basic skills in reading and writing Braille and arithmetic on taylor frame. It also serves as a guidance and counseling center for those visually disabled pupils not residing there. This helps both pupils and the schools they are attending to coordinate efforts to tackle the problems related to school curriculum, psychological stress and social adjustment.

Taking a queue from the success of the integrated education approach implemented by NGOs, some government-run schools have also adopted the program. For instance, President Estate in Delhi has actively encouraged the admission of visually disabled pupils in the school. In fact, it has established a resource center in the school where special education experts assist both pupils and teachers to overcome problems faced during the classroom teaching.

It is, therefore, essential to recognize the importance of the civil society organizations to identify and target the social groups and their needs that would never be able to influence government policies by virtue of their insignificant number in total population and the lack of necessary resources. Governments are burdened by their top-heavy administrative structures and their pre-occupation with attempts to grapple with the ever-increasing pressures from powerful competing groups. It is better for the governments to channel the funds through NGOs sector. However, a note of caution is required here. The NGOs must do their job seriously and utilize the resources efficiently by identifying their target groups clearly, working out a clear-cut strategy to deal with problem at hand and generating social consciousness about the problems they are dealing with. In fact, the success of the integrated education approach stems mainly from the ability of the few NGOs to involve wider society for the promotion of education for visually disabled persons in India.

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