Once upon a time there was a gremlin. Mischievous but good hearted in a bunch of ‘thinking ’ imps. He thought too, a little mechanically though. It was difficult for him to find friends because the way he looked at the world was not the way everyone else did. He liked moving in circles while the rest of the world loved straight lines. While the world loved talking, his mind was filled with pictures. How much he wished if he could talk through pictures too. While the other imps kept themselves busy by learning the dynamics of the world, his mind was fascinating enough to engage him.
A square peg in a round hole?
Very much. But the problem with the world is that it does not like square pegs. It tries to rub off the edges with the social formalities, the etiquette, the step by step procedure of fitting in until you decide to give up. It was no different with the gremlin too. To make the world go round, you need to first understand what a round is. So mamma gremlin and papa gremlin took him to the school to learn the basics. Every imp had always been studying in this school. But not the gremlin. They looked at him and told him off. He had to be taught differently, he had to have the concepts modified a bit to suit his brain’s wiring.
Couldn’t they do it?
Of course they could, with little extra effort and the willingness to improve the life of someone who was an asset by not being round. An asset by the virtue of autism, a difficulty, not a disease. A different way of thinking, not a shun down as the school wanted it to be. But papa gremlin and mamma gremlin knew that he had the right to study wherever he wanted to, where every other imp went. The school had to make arrangements. Why wouldn’t they? Just because they had rankings to maintain and not create a pool of better individuals to face the world. Did they care about creating a future generation prepared for the challenges? They did not. So the gremlins decided to invoke the highest power to intervene. It is known as RTE or Right to Education Act now.
This gremlin can be any kid, the one who likes to just huddle in the corner in a birthday party and watch the fan move or the one who likes to be just with himself in a park. The one you have noticed making unusual sounds, unaware of the social decorum or the one you have pin pointed for being unresponsive to your helloes . He might not be intentionally rude. He might be just too engrossed in his mind.
Does it qualify him to be not eligible for an admission in a mainstream school? The words- integrated, inclusive- just flow on its own in the conversation you have with the schools. But only on paper. When it comes to actually admitting a child with difficulties, the excuses are many, the ways to overcome RTE are plenty.
“There are no seats available for such kids. We have to maintain a ratio.”
“We only have one special educator who is not equipped to handle such specific needs.”
“You should try a special school.”
When government created this act, the idea was to let everyone have equal access to education so why this apathy towards some who think differently? The schools can certainly have these facilities to not let this amazing talent pool waste. But no one cares. In a country with a population of 1.2 billion, it is no one’s business if thousands miss to create a life for themselves due to a difficulty, a difficulty that can easily be their strength.
Thousands of gremlins fight with the system every day, with the public apathy, to change the perceptions of the people around them.
But it’s the hope and the stories like that of Rahul, who got admission after being rejected by a dozen schools, which keep them going. No school wanted this 17 year old boy with autism who had actually passed Class X ICSE that too without any support. The label of autism weighed more than the certificate which would have easily sufficed in case of a ‘regular’ child. Will we ever be able to look beyond the labels and value the caliber? There are some brilliant kids out there, waiting for a chance. Well, someone has taken a chance on Rahul, even if it is after months of struggle. Let’s be a part of the change and outnumber those with the biases.
[This post is part of the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts program where the aim is to post at least once a day based on the prompts that they have provided. Today’s prompt is, “If your day to day responsibilities were taken care of and you could throw yourself completely behind a cause, what would it be?”]
I am one of the guest authors at We Post Daily for the month of September.