During the Question Hour Session in the National Assembly, The Member of Parliament of Tashichhoeling constituency, Dil Maya Rai, informed the House that the parents of children with disabilities in Special Education Needs (SEN) schools are seen facing the problem of continuing education once they pass the age of 16.
For instance, Changangkha Middle Secondary School (MSS) has around 126 children with various disabilities, and every year these students are not able to go for further studies. MP Dil Maya Rai believes that each student must get the opportunity to go for higher studies. Therefore, she asked about the basis for limiting the age, and also, if the education ministry has plans to increase the age in the future.
In response, Minister, Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD), Jai Bir Rai, said it is untrue that students with disabilities are not allowed to continue their studies after reaching a certain age because there are students in their 20s in schools and continuing their studies.
When it comes to Changangkha MSS, due to space constraints, the students, after completing class X, are transitioned to other institutions, and it has made parents unhappy since they want their children can continue their studies in the same school.
The education minister said in Bhutan, children with disabilities are supported all the time. Students with hearing impairment and visual impairment are sent to Wangsel and Muenselling institutes. However, the ministry is still concerned for students at Wangsel institute. Therefore, the ministry is exploring opportunities for the students there.
For students with severe difficulties, MoESD is providing training and other skills to prepare them for the life ahead. Similarly, with support from the ADB grant, multi-service centers are in operation.
In an earlier article, The Bhutanese talked to a specialized SEN teacher at the Tendruk school. She shared that there are children with intellectual disabilities and with a lot of hard work, they can score 50 percent and above, and these children have a genuine interest in going for higher education.
She said everybody should weigh in the interest of the children. Till class XII, children with disabilities are provided with education, but after class XII, there is nothing for them. Every year there are students with disabilities who complete class XII with many difficulties, only to be taken home by their parents and kept there as there is nothing after that.
Also, the students with disabilities who complete classes X and XII have difficulties in finding gainful employment. Here, the issue is not just about having the opportunity to go for higher studies, but there is no proper employment for them as well after their school education.
There are many children with disabilities from poor financial backgrounds, and while there are institutes and NGOs for children with disabilities, most are located in the capital, and parents cannot afford to send their children to Thimphu.
Meanwhile, there are 39 inclusive schools, and more than 1,000 children with disabilities enroll in the inclusive schools in the country.