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About Samaaveshi Pathshaala Foundation:
Samaaveshi Pathshaala Foundation is a registered nonprofit based in Karjat tribal block of Maharashtra, founded by two graduates of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Our mandate is to build an inclusive society: a society for all where no one is left behind and everyone gets equal opportunity to excel in life. And the journey to build an inclusive society starts from an inclusive classroom.
We started our journey with an ‘inclusive kindergarten’ from a two-room rented space with a small playground in Kashele village, on 3rd December 2018, World Disability (Inclusion) Day. Our goal is to become a model inclusive school where all children irrespective of their social backgrounds or disability have equal access and opportunity to quality education.
At present, we have 30 children aged 4-7 years, including 10 children with disabilities (children with physical disability, children with cerebral palsy, and children with speech and hearing impairments), who study together in the same classroom using multi-sensory learning approach. The school’s curriculum is designed in such a way that each child gets equal opportunity to learn and participate in activities both in and outside the classroom. Besides, by integrating concepts of constructivism, arts-based therapy (ABT) and social-emotional learning (SEL), we strive to enhance creativity, expression and learning outcomes for all children at our school.
Vision and mission of the organization:
VISION: One day, all schools will become inclusive.
MISSION: To bring systemic transformation in schools where every child irrespective of their social background and disability has equal access to quality education.
Our current activities:
Inclusive Kindergarten: At present, we have 30 children aged 4-6 years, including 10 children with disabilities who study together, using multi-sensory approach. We follow an ‘inclusive curriculum’ that’s designed in a way that each child gets equal opportunity to learn and participate in activities both in and outside the classroom. Besides, by integrating concepts of constructivism, arts-based therapy (ABT) and social-emotional learning (SEL), we strive to enhance creativity, expression and learning outcomes for all children.
Beginning June 2019, we launched a series of new programmes to build an ecosystem on ‘inclusive education’ in Karjat block:
a) Samaaveshi (Community) Library
b) Digital Literacy Programme
c) Inclusive ‘Anganwadi’ Transformation
d) Inclusive School in-a-Box.
What is the problem that our organization is aiming to address? Why are we focusing on this problem?
Problem statement: ‘Low enrolment and high dropout among children with disability in India’.
An incident during an assignment in Nepal earthquake (2015) changed the course of our lives. A 10-year-old girl who was recovering from a spinal cord injury and using a wheelchair, was rejected from attending classes at her own school. This made us realise how discriminatory values and beliefs that are prevalent in schools, gradually translates into larger society.
As we researched further into this phenomenon, we understood of the larger problem of ‘low enrolment and high dropout’ among children with disability. They face discrimination and are denied equal access and opportunity to quality education at all levels. The result is: a significant percentage of children with disability either remain out of schools, or dropout well before they even complete their secondary education.
Studies after studies reveal this reality that children with disability form the largest out-of-school groups in India. 34% of children with disability are out of school (UNICEF, 2015). Among all those who enrol at elementary level, only 8.5% make it to secondary, and a dismal 2.3% pursue higher secondary education (MHRD, 2016).
While the reasons for low enrolment and high dropout among children with disability can be diverse, it’s mostly because regular schools and classrooms fail to address their specific learning needs. While this could be due to limited resources in schools, most often it’s a result of the ‘discriminatory mindset’ towards children (and people) with disabilities prevalent in our society. The situation is far more serious in rural and tribal areas where there’s limited access to basic amenities such as health and education.
In a baseline study of over 40 villages in KARJAT tribal block of Maharashtra (2017), we identified a total of 24 children with disability aged 3 – 14 years; of which 17 children were either dropouts or out of school. Also, for a block with a population of over 220,000 (Census 2011), there was only one school for children with hearing impairment. This validated the results of aforementioned studies conducted across India, and a call for urgent action to bring systemic transformation where all schools become ‘inclusive’ of children with and without disability.
What is our approach to solve this problem?
Solution statement: To bring systemic transformation where all schools become ‘inclusive’ of children with and without disability (and of all social backgrounds). One day, all schools will become ‘inclusive’.
At Samaaveshi, we intend to solve the problem (of low enrolment and high dropout among children with disability) through a ‘three-pronged strategic approach’:
Phase 1: a model ‘inclusive school’ in Karjat block of Maharashtra.
Phase 2: Research, resource development and teacher training in inclusive education.
PHASE 3: Specialized centre for inclusive education.
To address the problem, we started by setting-up an inclusive kindergarten/school called ‘Samaaveshi Pathshaala’ in Kashele village, with 15 students aged 3 to 6 years, including six children with disability. We have developed an ‘inclusive curriculum’ that is designed to address the specific learning needs and abilities of each child in the classroom, using multi-sensory learning method. Our plan is to increase one grade every academic year, and gradually become a ‘model inclusive school’ where all children with and without disability study together in the same classroom. Besides, with an ‘inclusive community library-cum-disability resource centre’ that has over 2500 print, digital and assistive learning materials, we’re also reaching out to the community with regular ‘inclusive’ children’s workshops on literacy, STEM, creative arts and life skills.
To address the lack of inclusive (multi-sensory) teaching-learning materials that’s needed for an inclusive classroom, we have been researching extensively on innovative teaching strategies and developing inclusive-TLM (iTLM) and classroom resources – that will empower teachers to engage effectively with all children with and without disability. Also, collaboration with organizations working on designing inclusive/assistive TLM, technology and innovation, has expanded the scope and impact exponentially.
Further, to address the issue of lack of training (and inclusive mindset) among teachers, we have started building capacity of ‘Anganwadi’ teachers by conducting a three-month long training on inclusive education and digital literacy. This intervention at the grassroots will have a direct impact on the enrolment of children with disability at Anganwadis, and ensure their transition to a regular school for Grade 1. Currently, we’re working with 40 Anganwadis in Karjat – and plan to cover all 300 Anganwadis in the block, by the year 2025. Going forward, as Samaaveshi Pathshaala upgrades to primary level, similar capacity-building/training programmes on inclusive education will be conducted with clusters of primary and secondary-level teachers from across public and private schools in Karjat block. Gradually, we look forward to a day when we’re able to implement block-level intervention on ‘whole school transformation’ and inclusive education.
In the long run, Samaaveshi will become ‘a specialized centre for inclusion’ that will offer both advocacy and service-delivery on inclusive education. We eventually plan to run professional courses on inclusive education – to increase the cadre of ‘inclusive educators’ across India. We believe, this is a powerful solution to fight the problem of low enrolment and high dropout among children with disability.
Volunteer: Come, experience what it’s like teaching-learning in an inclusive classroom.
One-time donation: Make a small contribution to support our work on inclusive education.
Sponsor a child’s education: Donate 500 rupees per month to support one child’s education.
Donate in-kind: Provide resources such as books, educational/play items, laptops, school furniture, physiotherapy equipment etc. – to help set-up an inclusive library and therapy centre.
Samaaveshi Pathshaala Foundation, Kashele, near Rural Hospital, Karjat block, Maharashtra – 410201, India.