‘Parents meet at Ankur Vidyamandir, an inclusive school (1)

(This is Part 1 of a three part piece)

Parents at an Ankur meet.

Parents at an Ankur meet.

A parent explained that they cover up and compensate for the hurtful attitude displayed by other children in the park, by playing together with their child, so that he does not miss playing with the other children and does not notice their uneasiness with him.

All children are individuals.

All individuals are different from each other just as some individuals share similarities with other individuals.

Over 20 years ago, UNESCO organized an international conference in 1994, where representatives from 92 governments and 25 international agencies came together to discuss education for children with disabilities. From this conference emerged the ‘Salamanca Statement and Framework For Action On Special Needs Education’.

 

The statement emphasizes that children with special needs must have access to regular schools, and that, ‘regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all; moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve the efficiency and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of the entire education system.’ India too sent delegates to represent the country at this conference. In the 2012 report, ‘Inclusive Education in India: A country in transition’, the researcher exploring gaps in India’s education system finds that ‘the most important one to change is the negative paradigm around people with disabilities. A paradigm shift is beginning in India, at least among the policy makers, that “education for all” will not be achieved without a completely inclusive education system.’ In 2016, another set of researchers wrote in their report ‘Inclusive Education in India’, published in the International Journal of Indian Psychology, that ‘For a school to be inclusive, the attitudes of everyone in the school, including administrators, teachers, and other students, are positive towards students with disabilities. Inclusive education means that all children, regardless of their ability level, are included in a mainstream classroom, or in the most appropriate or least restrictive environment (LRE), that students of all ability levels are taught as equals, and that teachers must adjust their curriculum and teaching methodologies so that all students benefit. This also avoids wasting resources, and “shattered hopes, which often occurs in classrooms that are “one size fits all.’ India’s recent Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, defines inclusive education in Section 2 (m) thus – ‘“inclusive education” means a system of education wherein students with and without disability learn together and the system of teaching and learning is suitably adapted to meet the learning needs of different types of students with disabilities;’

 

InShot_20170309_215330

(From the ‘What is Care?‘ campaign, March 2017.)

It is rare to find an environment in the context of education where a diverse group of children with differences between them, that include different support needs, learn and grow in an inclusive model of schooling. Inclusive in this case means, children with disabilities who have particular support needs share classroom, curriculum and all infrastructure and human resources, with children who may not have disabilities and the associated support needs.

This subject is complex and beyond the scope of this blog byte, but this is our context.

 

 

Ankur Vidyamandir, Pune.

Ankur Vidyamandir, Pune.

In Pune, Ankur Vidyamandir has had an evolving model of inclusive education for about three decades. Thanks to Fergusson College volunteers at Caregivers Link, we spoke to Neeta Awate, Principal of the school, along with some of the school staff and team members, for a social media campaign that the volunteers were working on, called ‘What is Care?’. (Go to the Facebook page here.)

 

 

 

Madhuri addresses the participants.

Madhuri addresses the participants.

 

One thing led to another, and we then met Madhuri Deshpande, the founder of Ankur Vidyamandir. Our first conversation covered many topics as we explored the similarities and the differences between our approaches and aims in our work on care, care relationships and caregiving.

 

She invited us with warmth and generosity, to participate in one of the parent teacher meetings held quite regularly at the school. The theme of this meeting was stress and stress-busting.

 

 

Shalini explains the stress survey tool to a parent.

Shalini explains the stress survey tool to a parent.

 

When I arrived on the day of the meet, I was particularly struck by the extreme punctuality of all. Ankur team members were busy setting up the hall.

 

I was introduced to Shalini Singh, the key resource person facilitating the stress busting session. Shalini was busy handing out stress survey questionnaires to parents as they were coming in, explaining what was required of them for filling out these forms.

Go to:-

‘Parents meet at Ankur Vidyamandir, an inclusive school.
 (Part 2)
(Part 3)

(Shikha Aleya)

 

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