Special education school staff and association members went on strike between 10 AM and 1 PM on Thursday afternoon, and marched to the district Collectorate office in 14 districts to hand over a memorandum.

Kerala special education school staff parents protest for free education higher wagesRepresentational image
news Education Friday, January 18, 2019 - 17:26

On Thursday, over 6000 parents, teaching, non-teaching and management staff of special education schools in Kerala went on strike, demanding a better addressal of their needs and requirements by the state government. The groups on strike put forth a variety of demands, including that children with disabilities should also be granted access to free, quality education, and that special education teaching staff be paid on par with teaching staff in other schools. 

Special education school staff and association members went on strike between 10 AM and 1 PM on Thursday, and marched to the district Collectorate office in 14 districts to hand over a memorandum and demand that their needs be met. If they do not receive a satisfactory response in the coming days, a relay hunger strike is planned in front of the Secretariat on January 25, with representatives of each of the 14 districts carrying forward the strike on each day. Organisations like Association for Intellectually Disabled (AID), Parents Association for Intellectually Disabled (PAID), Management Association for Intellectually Disabled (MAID) and ASHVAS (a welfare association for special school staff) took part in the strike. 

Susheela Kuriachan, Vice Chairperson of the Association for Intellectually Disabled (AID) told TNM, “In our state, only NGOs are running special education schools for children with intellectual disabilities. There is only one school for children with intellectual disabilities by the government. All the NGOs are running without any financial aid from the Central or state government. Free education is not given to special education children in private management schools, which violates their right to education.”

This results not only in children with intellectual disabilities not being able to access free education, but also in special educators being paid far less than teachers at similar levels working in government aided schools. 

She continues, “Teachers in special education schools are getting pay less than Rs 10,000 a month. But if they were working in local self-government schools, they get Rs 28,500 to 36,500.”

It appears that the lackadaisical attitude towards special education schools has been reinforced by the current government. Susheels says, “The UDF government previously committed that all the school with more than 100 students under age of 18 years would be given aid status. This govt didn't take it up. They instead said they would give a special package for all the teachers, saying it would provide a good salary for all teaching and non-teaching staff. This has not been done: there has been no special package and no aided status. Therefore, there is no equal pay for equal work for teachers working in the same field.”

She adds that under existing government guidelines, students are entitled to scholarships, and parents are not receiving the government assistance that is accorded to them. She further cites the lack of vocational training that will lead to jobs for students with intellectual disabilities. 

KM George, president of PAID, lamented to TNM about the real price of special education school staff being underpaid. “Our children depend on school management and staff. The staff is inadequate, and their salaries meagre. If they resign, what will our children do?

“If there is no money given to the schools, the schools undergo a loss, and this affects parents. What our children deserve is not being given to them. We are doing this for the children.”

An official from the Department of Education told TNM that this issue was being looked into by the Social Justice Department. The Social Department could not be reached for comment on this issue by TNM despite repeated calls.

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