SEN Coordinator of Tendruk CS providing education and therapy to a child with a spastic Cerebral Palsy through home visit program. (Photo Consent taken from Parents)

Inclusive school in Samtse faces numerous challenges to provide special education to the students with disabilities

Tendruk Central School, the only inclusive school in Samtse, is facing difficulties in providing Special Education (SEN) to students with disabilities. Having the highest diversity of special children, the school has limited facilities.

SEN coordinator and a SEN provider in Tendruk CS, Tara Devi Giri, said there is only one inclusive school in Samtse. SEN division has endorsed one or two inclusive schools in each dzongkhag. She said there is a lot of pressure on the school admission from the local gewogs and from other dzongkhags as well.

Since the school has boarding facilities, many people tend to think that the school has all the facilities. She said there are children aged 6 and 7 admitted in the school who cannot take care of themselves, and since the school does not have a caregiver, it is difficult to manage the young students.

She said the school has 78 students in the SEN program as of last year, and 5 new students with different disabilities in class PP. There are students with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down Syndrome, cleft lip palate, hearing, learning and speech difficulties, vision issues and mobility difficulties.

The school does not deny admission to children with severe disabilities. The parents are given options to stay in a rental accommodation. However, most of the children with disabilities come from the broken families or they are financially disadvantaged and cannot afford to rent houses even though they enroll their child in the SEN program, said Tara Devi.

She said Samtse has the highest number of students with disabilities. There are many parents who have returned back to their village without enrolling their child as they cannot afford to rent an accommodation.

Currently, 11 students with Special needs of Tendruk CS are staying in rented accommodation, and two children have admission only on paper and they will study at home with the help from their parents since they need extra care.

Tara Devi said despite budget constraint, SEN teachers make personal efforts to visit home to provide service sometimes.  The students are enrolled in the school to better their future and also their name will be registered in the ministry of education.

“There is no separate budget that is why a lot of issues are there. We have a lot of strategies and ideas but without the budget, we are so handicapped to provide support. I look for a lot of funds for the students who are staying in rental house, and currently there are 5 students supported by private individuals,” said Tara Devi.

Tara Devi also said that if the SEN Program can be nationalized then many parents would benefit from this because their children can be enrolled in the community school. She said there are some children who can walk and talk except for a few issues, and they can be enrolled in the school in their community but those children are also sent to Tendruk CS. The school is not denying their admission, but parents are needed to be together with the child for best care.

Tendruk Central School has 10 trained teachers for the SEN program. But whenever there is a shortage of teachers in the school, the trained teachers of the SEN program are asked to teach the other classes, whereby only one or two SEN teachers are left to look after SEN students. As per research, SEN teachers should spend a minimum of three hours with each child to understand the child and to provide appropriate interventions, she added.

Meanwhile, the students in the SEN program who need medical attention in Thimphu are not able to get it due the mandatory 7-day quarantine for COVID-19 screening. Other than medical attention, there are students with hearing difficulties who need to study in Drugyel School in Paro, but they are also not able to travel.

The school does not face much problem in regard to the COVID-19 health protocol and other preventative measures. For the new normal, Tendruk CS has allowed some parents of students with severe difficulties to come to the school. The parents are trained and educated with the COVID-19 health protocols and different coordinators to guide them.

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