The Government Girls School, Portmore, Shimla which had denied admission to three visually impaired students two years back is ‘almost’ inclusive. Now 20 differently abled girls are enjoying free education in the residential school and the government bears their hostel and mess expenditure. A resource room with Braille books, computers with talking software and other educational devices has been inaugurated.
A special educator for blind students is appointed in the school. The proposal to construct ramps, additional hostel for 100 children and barrier free toilets will take concrete shape soon. This will be the first inclusive school in the state. The “U” turn in the government policies is the result of the multi dimensional advocacy of Umang Foundation, a public welfare trust, working for the empowerment of the disabled in Himachal Pradesh.
“The government has notified four senior secondary schools in the state as ‘inclusive’ including this one where disabled students will study with other children. Eight more schools are to be made inclusive school soon with all necessary facilities”, said the chief secretary Sudripta Roy while presiding over the closing ceremony of ‘We Care Film Fest’ and honouring of meritorious disabled students organized by Umang Foundation at Portmore School. He also gave away Umang Samman to three teachers for their outstanding contribution to inclusive education. As many as 19 award winning short films on disability were screened during the festival and the deaf and blind girls presented a colourful cultural programme. More than 2000 children along with other persons watched the films. All Principals of local schools and colleges along with other dignitaries were present in the function.
The chief secretary appreciated the efforts of the foundation and stressed upon providing all necessary support to the disabled students in the main stream schools. He said if the normal schools were well equipped, there was no need to run special schools for the disabled. He categorically stated, “All disabled students are entitled to study in any school of their choice. No school can deny admission to the disabled students. If admission is denied, we will take auction against the concerned principal. The must be given all facilities.”
He presented Umang Samman to Professor Pankaj K. Singh of Department of English, H.P. University, Dr. Devinder Kashyap and Mr. Sukhdev Sharma, Principal and recently retired Principal of Portmore School for their outstanding contribution in the education of the disabled. He honoured 26 meritorious students with including nine blind and 11 deaf girls of Portmore School, Akshay Kumar, wheel chair user pursuing Ph.D.; Meenu Chandel (M. Tech.), Piyush Sharma (B. Tech.), Rajpal (M. Phil), and Vasudha Rawat. He said the films were the best media to change the mind set of the society.
Ajai Srivastava, chairman of Umang Foundation, expressed happiness that their initiative for inclusive education in Portmore School was yielding result. Two years back, he was compelled by the authorities to file a PIL in the H.P. High Court to protect the rights of the three blind girls. Now the government was replicating the Portmore school experience to promote inclusive education in other schools also.
P.C. Dhiman, Principal Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment said the government is determined to implement all disability laws through which human rights of the disabled could be protected. Mr. Dinkar Burathoki, Director of Education and other senior officers of the government were present in the programme. Earlier Mr. Rajendra Singh, Director of Information and Public Relations inaugurated the ‘We Care Film Fest.’ He said when people were not taking care of their own disabled and old persons, the members of Umang Foundation have become a source of inspiration for others for rendering selfless service to the weakest sections of the society.