Special Educators opt out of Special Schools

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Special Educators opt out of Special Schools

A teacher who opts for special education as a career is making a difficult choice. The pay is paltry, but the job challenging.

After sometime, many of the teachers move over to mainstream schools or switch careers in favour of more lucrative jobs such as those in the Information Technology sector. Poor salary has meant that the teachers move to mainstream schools where their qualifications may never be used, says Jaya Krishnaswamy, Director, Madhuram Narayanan Centre for Exceptional Children and Parvathy Viswanath, founder, Aikya.

“The money [salary] should give dignity to the job. People are ignored in this profession,” Ms. Krishnaswamy says.

The State Government made a beginning by earmarking Rs.25 crore in the 2007-08 budget for the welfare of mentally challenged persons.

A portion of the allocation is towards the monthly maintenance of Rs.500 for 30,000 persons. Around 175 organisations were also provided financial assistance recently. But that would be enough only to run the schools, say special educators.

Glaring Disparities

Though the special education training programme costs Rs.1 lakh, the monthly salaries range between Rs.1,500 and Rs.2,500, says S. Namburajan, Secretary, All India Confederation of Organisations for Persons with Mental Disability. The government should bring in a ‘time pay scale’ for special educators as well, in order to retain trained professionals.

In the 225 private schools in the State, about 2,500 special educators are employed but only 36 of them draw government pay scales, says M. Ravichandran, president of the Confederation.

Though those trained by the Central government-run Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) are assured of a better pay, it still is only an honorarium and lacks benefits that come with salary.

The State’s training programme model has formed the basis for RCI’s training module too, says special education trainer and psychologist P. Jayachandran. In Tamil Nadu, students who pass Class XII can take up special education training for a year after undergoing two years’ B.Ed. training.

The experts call for appointment of and even distribution of such teachers across every district.

A clause in the People with Disabilities Act mandates that the State government and local bodies run special schools for the disability concerned and that the government should appoint teachers.

If early intervention programmes must succeed, then special schools must be accessible to the community, he says.