HC steps in to help students with learning disability
Mumbai : The Bombay High Court has asked the Union government to file an affidavit by December 9, informing it about the recommendations it proposes to make for establishing learning disability centres all over Maharashtra.
A bench of the court also asked the Maharashtra government to coordinate with the Centre for acquiring funds from it for establishing such learning disability centres.
The HC was hearing a petition filed by Dr Haresh Shetty, a psychiatrist, seeking a direction to the government to help children suffering from learning disability.
Government pleaders Geeta Shastri and J S Saluja submitted a report to the HC on progress made towards establishment of learning disability centres at government medical colleges and hospitals in Maharashtra.
The report also mentioned that these centres are set up at KEM Hospital in Mumbai and Sassoon Hospital in Pune and that the Central government proposes to start learning disability centres in 32 districts of the state.
The bench noted that the report has stated the dates on which learning disability Centres will become functional.
The judges said they hoped the time schedule mentioned in the report is adhered to and the centres become operational on the date on which they are given the necessary equipment.
Justices V M Kanade and Anil Menon asked the committee appointed by it earlier to look into this report and give its suggestions to the officers working with the Central and state governments.
“Unfortunately, we find that the Central government has not made any recommendations and their counsel is also not present for hearing,” said the judges recently while asking the Centre to file an affidavit on December 9.
The High Court, however, was of the view that both the state government and the Centre would have to take steps to create an awareness among parents and educational institutions about the learning disability of students.
The bench also asked the state government to issue advertisements so that people at large are made aware of this peculiar problem of learning disability.
“Very often, it is found that children with learning disabilities are not properly diagnosed and such children lag behind other students and their parents as well as teachers and other students do not treat them properly. This may create trauma and may have an adverse impact on the psychology of child,” the bench observed.
“These advertisements will create awareness among the parents and teachers and when they find that the child is not responding to education which is given to him, they may first try to rule out the possibility of the child having learning disability. The stigma which is attached to such learning disability will also be removed if proper awareness is created about the learning disability,” the judges said.
The judges further noted that were informed that the High Court-appointed body had proposed to the expert committee (of the government) to have a sub-committe to discuss the concerns expressed by the HC panel in their letter dated September 2, 2015.
“We are informed that there has been no response from the expert committee,” they observed.
The bench asked the expert committee to respond to the September 2 letter of the High Court committee.
The Judges further noted that the High Court-appointed committee has also submitted a report to the Chief Justice, as per the directions given by the HC, in a suo moto PIL and the same has been taken on record.
Moreover, each board, viz HSC, SSC, ICSE, IGSE, IB and CBSE have been supplied with a copy of the report and informed about concessions which are provided to children with learning disabilities.
Some of the concessions enumerated in the report are that student will be given nearest examination centre of their choice, 20 per cent grace marks in one subject or maximum of three subjects will be given to a student if he or she is going to fail in final examination.
The other concessions recommended in the report include that schools must make sitting arrangements in separate room for such a student for taking examinations. The answer books have to be sent in separate covers and students will get 25 per cent additional time to write exams, the report said.
A learning disabled student can opt to drop Science and can take any other subject (Music, Painting, Home Science, Introductory Information Technology, Commerce (elements of business) and Commerce (elements of book keeping & Accountancy). If the student opts for regular Science, instead of practical examination in Science and Technology (Part I & Part II) oral examination will be allowed, says the report.
Similar suggestions have been given in respect of students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia etc.
The HC has asked the respective Boards to take into consideration these suggestions.
The court said it was happy to note that the state government has already issued a Government Resolution granting various exemptions and concessions to students with learning disabilities and the SCC Board has received the said GR and was accordingly acting as per the directions given therein.
The HC also noted that a 20 minute concession is given for examination which has a duration of one hour. Similarly, writer is also provided for such students. So far as Respondent No 1 (National Institute of Open Schooling) is concerned, they have also framed their own guidelines based on which various concessions are being given to these students.
However, the bench noted that though these concessions are available for students beyond 12th Standard, students who are undertaking higher education in colleges are not availing such benefits because of lack of awareness about them.
The judges asked the Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University to create awareness among the Colleges about the concessions which are given or should be given to the students with learning disabilities.
The HC was informed that three Centres at Rajawadi Hospital, Mumbai, R.M. Cooper Hospital, Mumbai and J.J. Hospital, Mumbai are ready and can be made functional. The judges asked the State SSC and HSC Board to visit these hospitals along with the Expert Committee and take advantage of their services.
The matter has been posted for further hearing on December 9.