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In an important verdict to protect the rights of Children with Special Needs or suffering from disability (CwSN), the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre to forthwith notify the norms and standards of pupil-teacher ratio for special schools and separate norms for special teachers who alone can impart education and training to CwSN in the general schools. The top court emphasized that only 28,535 special teachers are available for children with special needs/CwSN and directed the state governments to initiate the appointment process.
A bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar pointed out there is a dearth of rehabilitation professionals or special teachers recognized and registered by the council concerned, who alone can impart education and training to handicap persons/CwSN.
The bench noted that as per the available data with the Unified District Information for Education, there are 22.5 lakh CwSN in the country. "Further, only 4.33 lakh general teachers have been trained to teach CwSN in addition to teaching general children and only 28,535 special teachers are available for children with special needs/CwSN," the bench noted in its 100-page verdict.
Passing a slew of directions in the matter, the bench directed states to "initiate appointment process to fill in vacancies for the posts so created for rehabilitation professionals/special teachers for being appointed on regular basis". It further added, "The same shall be completed within six months from the date of this order or before the commencement of academic year 2022, 2023, whichever is earlier".
The top court directed the Centre to forthwith notify the norms and standards of pupil-teacher ratio for special schools and separate norms for special teachers who alone can impart education and training to CwSN in the general schools.
It added that until a comprehensive action plan is formulated, as a "stop-gap arrangement", the recommendations made in 2019 by the state commissioner for persons with disabilities, National Capital Territory of Delhi, be adopted.
The top court accepted petitioners' contention to adopt 2019 recommendations, as a stop gap arrangement, wherein the pupil-teacher ratio is suggested 8:1 for children with cerebral palsy; 5:1 for children with intellectual disability, ASD and specific learning disabilities; and 2:1 for deaf blind and a combination of two or more of the seven disabilities.
The bench said, "Other teachers and staff in general schools be given compulsory training and sensitized to handle CwSN, if admitted". It also directed the authorities to explore the possibility of merging unviable special schools with relatively viable special schools in the neighbourhood.
The bench said state commissioners appointed under section 79 of The Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, to forthwith initiate suo motu enquiries regarding compliance and then make recommendation to the appropriate authority. The bench said state commissioners may submit a report in respect of compliances by the end of February 2022.
The top court verdict came on petitions filed by Rajneesh Kumar Pandey and others espousing the cause of teachers having BEd (special) and DEd (special) degree or diploma courses and fully trained to cater to the requirements of CwSN.