Many schools in Bengaluru unaware about the scheme.
Bharathi Kokade, 15, a blind student studying at Sri Rakum school, Indiranagar, still learns from old Braille textbooks provided by her school. At the Divine Light School for the Blind, one Braille book is shared among five students. The promised Braille books and digital book banks never reached the table of blind schools in Bengaluru.
“Our seniors used these books and now we have been given the same books. We aren’t getting any new books,” said Bharathi.
Jyothi Suresh, administrative head at Sri Rakum, said they never received any Braille books from the government. “We either get funding from NGOs or manage on our own,” she informed The Observer.
Prakash G, A teacher at THE Divine Light School for the Blind, Whitefield, said the government sometimes does provide them books, but never on time. “More than a year goes by and then they send us some books… those are of no use then,” he said.
Kannikka Rajamurthi, another teacher at the same school, spoke about the difficulties she and her colleagues face as their students don’t have access to enough books.
“It is difficult to teach blind students. On top of it, if one book is being shared among four or five students, it gets really difficult. They aren’t getting quality education not because of their disability, but because of lack of accessibility,” she said.
According to the state budget for 2021-22, to assist visually impaired students studying in classes 1 to 10 in special schools, ‘Sushravya’ digital book banks were to be established. Digital books were supposed to be supplied to the special schools.
However, the budget for 2022-23, presented by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on March 4, had no mention of Braille books or digital book banks.
The administrative heads of most blind schools in Bengaluru have not even heard of the digital banks promised in the budget.
Siddhesh Davekar, administrative head at Jyothi Seva, a home for blind children, said: “I am at this school for more than seven years. In these seven years, I have heard promises from the government about Braille books and other facilities, but we have never received them. This is the first time I am hearing of the concept of digital book banks.”
According to an article published on the website LiveLaw.in in September 2021, the Karnataka High Court had ordered the state government to provide Braille textbooks for visually disabled students within 15 days. But six months later, the students are yet to receive them.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, says education to persons who are blind or deaf or both should be imparted in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication.
Shashi Kumar, an educationist and general secretary of the Associated Management of English Medium Schools in Karnataka, said: “To come to think of it, it is nothing special. When the government couldn’t provide regular textbooks to schools, providing Braille textbooks to special schools is out of the question!”
About the reasons for the possible delays in distributing books, Kumar said: “The delay is because there is no pressure for anyone. There is a different department for the empowerment of persons with disabilities. They should be looking after this as it is their responsibility. It is really unfortunate for the students that such people are in power because of whom they are deprived of basic things like textbooks.”
The National Education Policy 2020 also talks about inclusive education which includes language-appropriate books with large print, Braille books and digital books.