On August 30, 2023, Sydney D’Souza, a 43-year-old specially-abled pupil, fell from the second floor of the Sanjay School building in Porvorim. He battled for his life after that.
The student was mobile and regular at the Sanjay Centre for Special Education, but was numb from the waist down and on oxygen support due to the incident. He breathed his last leaving a vacuum in many hearts.
According to Guruprasad R Pawaskar, the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD), the Sanjay School building was in poor shape and posed a risk to the safety of the centre’s registered special needs pupils.
The Directorate of Education and Member Secretary of the The Sanjay Centre for Special Education received a notification from the SCPD pointing out to the building’s dangerous state.
But, instead of resolving the situation, there seems to be nothing done about it.
Simply keeping it shut doesn’t help anyone. It is required by law and is morally right to ensure that the building complies with accessibility criteria and acceptable accommodation for people with disabilities.
Thus, efforts must be made to check exactly that.
It is unjust towards 110 students, aged between 20 and 40 years with severe disabilities, who have been at home and facing behavioural issues due to the school’s closure.
The Disability Rights Association of Goa (DRAG) has urged the Chief Minister to intervene and ensure that the centre is reopened. The parents of children at Sanjay School with special needs have organised a protest with the demand to open the school. But, has something happened?
By giving people with disabilities the necessary skills and assistance to improve their employability and general quality of life, vocational training and rehabilitation centres play a critical role in empowering individuals with disabilities.
Vocational training centres are businesses that prioritize the inclusion of people with disabilities, job creation and skill enhancement. They obtain useful skills that complement their aptitudes and interests, which helps them find meaningful jobs and promotes independence.
Having specialized training improves one’s employability and raises the possibility of finding fulfilling work and becoming financially independent. By providing specialized assistance and accommodations, these centres help enhance the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce.
Work helps people with disabilities live better lives by fostering self-worth, social integration and a feeling of purpose in addition to providing financial security. Additionally, they operate as centres for community involvement, promoting social contact and lessening the stigma attached to impairments.
These centres modify training curricula and physical spaces to meet the various requirements of people with disabilities, fostering an environment that is welcoming and encouraging.
Additionally, they promote the overall well-being of individuals with disabilities by offering counselling, support for physical and mental health, and help adjust to obstacles in everyday life.
They also dispel myths, foster understanding, and work to promote public knowledge of the rights and talents of people with disabilities, fostering an inclusive society.
If memory serves us well, Kala Academy in Goa held an art show in April 2018 that included paintings created by kids with special disabilities.
Even though the exhibition included paintings created by children with special needs, the fact that it was such a huge success indicates the potential of these kids.
Sanjay School, the sole state-run special education facility in Goa, was in charge of organizing the show. There were more than 80 paintings on exhibit, made by kids with disabilities ranging from learning difficulties to hearing and cerebral impairments.
Also in 2020, the Sanjay Centre for Special Education arranged a ‘Madachem Fest’ activity at Sanjay School in Porvorim with the objective of showcasing Goa’s cultural legacy and giving impaired pupils a venue to exhibit their latent abilities.
The show featured objects made, by handicapped kids, using coconut palms. One of the program’s goals was to provide impaired kids with the ability to stand on their own feet.
Prakash Kamat, the coordinator of the fest at that time, had stressed that impaired students may succeed in their chosen industries if they have the right training and assistance.
He also said that differently-abled children require empathy and care.
The goal of the fest was also to raise public awareness of the value of impaired students and their potential for success in their chosen industries.
The closure of a school catering to specially-abled children, without any action, indicates a lack of concern for their well-being and education, highlighting the potential negative impact of such closures.
Our moral duty, therefore, towards persons with special abilities is to respect their dignity, promote equal opportunities, and create inclusive environments.
This includes treating them with kindness and advocating for policies ensuring equal opportunities in education, employment and other aspects.