Nearly 400 physically disabled, visually impaired, and children with autism walked hand-in-hand with regular students on Friday to raise awareness on social inclusion of children with special needs through education. The rally aims to create awareness in people to support the cause and help such children to enter in mainstream.

It a happening Friday morning in Vadodara as one side the administration is preparing for the arrival of Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani and on the other children walk in a awareness rally in support of equal education. Over 400 group of students, both  children with regular development and specially-abled, echoed the streets of Baroda, with the chants of ‘Inclusive education’ to show their support for equitable education rights for children with disabilities. The awareness drive was organised by “Consortium for Inclusive Education”, an initiative of Deepak foundation supported by Gujarat CSR Authority.

The 2.8 Kms drive commenced from the premises of Samaj Suraksha Sankul, Nizampura and ended at Ratri Bazar, L&T circle. The objective of the event is to enlighten various sections of the society that we all need to put in a little bit of extra effort to support children with special needs in regular schools. While some children may have severe disabilities, majority of them have mild-medium impairment and do not need to be isolated from the mainstream society and be educated in special schools.

Consortium for Inclusive Education has a broad mission of supporting regular schools in integrating children with special needs and ensuring that they continue to receive high quality education post-integration. Consortium for Inclusive education has, several prominent academic institutes of Gujarat as its members. “Inclusive Education not only benefits the disabled child but also their peers. They learn to be more responsible and empathetic.”, says Promila Zalpuri, Secretariat Incharge of Consortium for Inclusive Education.

Dr Ruchi Mehta from Deepak Foundation who is the force behind this initiative said, “We have included some of our visually impaired children in regular schools and have seen great results. The schools and parents of these children were apprehensive at first, but the success of these children have encouraged others to want to go to regular schools and be socially included. Our dream is to see mainstream schools (and parents) take pride in educating children with special needs in their classrooms. Special schools and NGOs could work together with the mainstream schools to provide technical expertise and support for the development of children with special needs. This is the journey of making them future contributing members of the society.”

Darpan Inani, who is India’s highest-rated visually impaired chess player, and the only Indian visually impaired chess player to have ever won international first prize against a sighted player at the Creon open chess tournament in France was the main chief guest of the event and flagged off the rally.

“Out of 130 crore of our India’s total population, over 5 crore of it are differently abled. That’s equivalent to the population of an European country. We neglect this section of the society, we are losing out on the workforce who can contribute greatly towards the GDP of the country. This is a great initiative by Deepak Foundation and more academicians should join in and create a inclusive society. Even in my personal life inclusive education has played an extensive role as I studied in normal school with regular kids. This was a game changer for me.” said Inani, who is all set to appear for his CA finals in May.

It was an exhilarating sight for the Baroda locals to see how children of the local municipal schools were holding hands of visually impaired children and children with autism and raising their voice together in support of inclusive education. “Today’s awareness drive taught us an important lesson in being sensitive to others. If these children come and be a part of us at our schools we will empower them in our ways and make them a part of us.” said Dakshini Kumari, a student of Maharana Pratap Prathmik Shikshan School.

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