The Bombay High Court has asked Maharashtra govt to consider starting dedicated television channel or radio station to impart education to children with special needs during the Covid 19 pandemic as there are many children who either do not have smart phones or network coverage. Besides, the needs of these children would be different depending on their disability.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni were hearing a public interest Litigation (PIL) by National Association for Blind (NAB) and NGO ‘Anamprem’ raising concerns over problems being faced by students with disabilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rui Rodrigues, counsel for National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), said that they will consider it. “We will consider the suggestion. We will check with the Information and Broadcast ministry and explore the possibility,” said Rodrigues.
During the hearing, the Chief Justice remarked that there are network problems even in urban areas then what would be the situation in rural areas. “When I visit Nagpur, I do not get network. As Chief Justice if I do not get network, do you expect rural population to get network?” asked the chief justice.
The judges even questioned whether the usage of video conference interface like Google Meet and Zoom was apt for imparting education to children with special needs on rural areas. “Google Meet and Zoom in rural areas? Where there is no (network) connectivity, how do you do it?” asked Chief Justice.
Uday Warunjikar, counsel for NAB and NGO Anamprem, argued that besides the network coverage issues, children with special needs cannot be given education through traditional means of mobile and apps. “How will a child with hearing and speech difficulty learn through a regular app? Also, a blind child would require a braille script to understand things,” argued Warunjikar.
Warunjikar suggested that they will have to use other alternative methods. “Television can be used, especially in rural areas where many children don’t have smart phones or those with phones have network problems. So far only one or two programmes are shown on Doordarshan. Its capacity is underused,” argued Warunjikar.
He pointed out that Maharashtra State Legal Service Authority holds weekly talk shows on an FM radio station and it is very popular.
Chief Justice narrated that he was with the Calcutta High Court when Covid struck. “Even there I had suggested the government to start education through television. Have a one hour programme, three times a day. You do not need a mobile connectivity for that,” said Chief Justice.
Pointing out section 31 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, Warunjikar Argued that it not only contemplates free education but also compulsory education to all.
HC has kept the PILs for hearing on August 5.
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