ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Case Study of Sipajhar

Disabled Schoolchildren and Their Challenges

Disability, a socially defined global phenomenon, varies from state to state in India, and is based on gender and rural–urban backgrounds. A study conducted in Sipajhar block of Assam shows that physically and mentally challenged schoolchildren face severe discrimination. As the existing policies and programmes are insufficient to wipe out the stigma attached to their lives, we need widespread awareness programmes to give the persons with disabilities a dignified life and to include them in the mainstream development processes.

Disability is a socially defined phenomenon. It has all-encompassing social consequences for individuals, and has a significant impact on societies (Barnartt 2005). The social reality of disability is characterised by “considerable variation in the experience of impairment by large numbers of people who nonetheless share common conditions of exclusion, marginalisation, and disadvantage” (Williams 2001: 141). Historically, different societies have elucidated the place of disability in the social order. The Neolithic tribes believed that disabilities were caused by spirits, and they used to perform skull surgeries to discharge the evil spirits (Albrecht 1992). The ancient Greeks considered disabled persons not as human beings, and hence, abandoned them to die (DePoy and Gilson 2004). Romans also left children with rigorous disabilities to die, but provided help to persons with disabilities with an anticipation that they would be positive and satisfied (Morris 1986).

Similarly, in ancient days, persons with disabilities in Asia were also treated most inhumanely by society and often such persons had no other options for their daily bread except begging. Ancient Zoroastrian scripture dating back 2,500 years in Persia envisioned an ideal world with no disabilities. However, the attitude towards persons with disabilities gradually changed after the Enlightenment period in the mid-17th and 18th centuries. In rural agrarian societies, family and communities used to integrate those who were unusual. Slowly, the number of institutions that housed the unproductive, including disabled people, also proliferated. The original intent of some of these organisations was to improve the status of the disabled, but frequently these institutions had turned into warehouses with subhuman conditions due to lack of resources (Foucault 2006).

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Updated On : 12th Sep, 2017

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