Conservative estimates put the population of persons with disabilities in India at 70-100 million. Yet, it is only a minuscule percentage of the population that has been seen in the mainstream of any aspect of life in the country; be it the workforce, education or anything else. Any study undertaken to determine the reason for this would point to one direction and that would be the lack of access.
Speaking about access to education, the census 2011 confirms around 45% of the disabled population is illiterate. The dropout rate is so high that only 9% of students complete their secondary education, and only 62.9% of disabled people between the ages of 3 and 35 have ever attended regular schools. And the reasons for this data are the ever-prevailing discrimination, inaccessible infrastructure and curriculum, lack of reasonable support, less equipped teachers and poverty etc. Despite the mandates in the National Education Policy and the RPWD Act 2016 of making all educational institutions to be completely accessible and providing reasonable accommodation, we have lacked behind in implementation, hence making it difficult for students with disabilities to attend school or pushing them to drop out. Another crucial player in increasing the dropout rate is the financial distress that people with disabilities face. UDISE+ data shows a huge spike in the rate of students with disabilities dropping out of the education system especially post Covid-19. The key factors for the dropouts are inaccessible virtual learning modes and financial costs which the students are unable to cope with.
In order to help students with disabilities to overcome financial barriers to education NCPEDP with support of Bajaj Finserv is launching a special scholarship project NCPEDP- Bajaj Finserv Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. This project is specifically crafted to provide financial support to 100 Students with Disabilities to continue their education and reach a certain level where they can be employable. The ratio of students from Secondary Education, Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education would be 30:30:40 and it will be 3 years of support (depending upon the needs and performance of scholars). Application through a specified format will be accepted and NCPEDP’s aim would be to bring forward students from different disability backgrounds through a robust screening mechanism.
Fees/ Assistive Devices/Transport Expenses (Upto 1 lakh, depending on the need and available budget) and the duration will be from 2022- 2025. Other key activities under the project will involve Capacity Building workshops for teachers, parents & students of concerned schools and colleges, research studies, focussed group discussions with stakeholders and advocating with relevant Governments.
NCPEDP for the purpose of providing scholarships won’t take any money for any use as the whole purpose of this project is to provide support to those students with disabilities who have no means of financial support or face other barriers while accessing their right to education.
Under the project, NCPEDP will directly coordinate with the Educational Institutions where the selected students are already enrolled or will be enrolled and their fees will directly be paid to the institutes. Other supports (assistive devices and transport expenses) will be given to the students directly. The scholarship sanctioned will continue on the basis of the satisfactory progress of the scholar. If the institute reports badly on the progress of the scholar or reports guilty of misconduct or the scholarship was obtained by fake documents, the scholarship will either be cancelled, completely or for a specific period of time, as the authority thinks fit. Also, the scholarship is given for the completion of one specific session. If a student repeats a session, the scholarship will not be given for repeating the same class.
For the execution of the project, NCPEDP will engage with its partners in both the states, government bodies, and district and state-level committees to ensure the reach of this project is just not in the urban settings but also in the rural areas.