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Special students getting online education, Maha govt tells HC

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The affidavit, filed by Dinesh Dingle, Joint Secretary, Social Justice and Special Assistance Department, said since the COVID-19 situation is still not under control and in absence of a vaccine, it would not be possible to hold physical classes for specially-abled students.

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday informed the Bombay High Court it was providing online education for specially-abled students across the state in special schools and training centres run by NGOs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government provided the information in an affidavit filed in response to a petition raising concerns over problems being faced by students with disabilities amid the COVID-19 lockdown which has led to closure of schools.

The affidavit, filed by Dinesh Dingle, Joint Secretary, Social Justice and Special Assistance Department, said since the COVID-19 situation is still not under control and in absence of a vaccine, it would not be possible to hold physical classes for specially-abled students.

The Commissionerate for Persons with Disabilities, Maharashtra, in June 2020 proposed to the government for sanction to start e-learning in its special schools.

"From June 15, 2020, the said online education has been made available through the Disha app, the affidavit said.

It added that Jay Vakeel Educational and Research Institution has been appointed as nodal agency for the purpose of online education for specially-abled students.

In case of special schools meant for hearing-impaired students, the Ruchiram Thadani Karnbadhir Vidyalay is providing online education.

"This agency has formed a group of special educators who have been provided training about online education, the affidavit said.

It further said specially-abled students are availing online education and training through social media apps like WhatsApp, Zoom meetings, Google meet, video recordings and home visits by educators.

During home visit, it has been instructed that all precautionary measures shall be undertaken to ensure safety, it said.

The petition, filed by city-based NGO Anamprem through advocate Uday Warunjikar, said while the government has framed a policy for online classes for general pupils, it has left out students with disabilities from its purview.

Warunjikar argued that with no policy in place, specially-abled students belonging to marginalised and rural families were being deprived of learning during the lockdown.

The plea sought the court to direct the government to implement the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, which makes it mandatory for all educational institutions to provide inclusive education and infrastructure on their campuses for students with disabilities.

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