A special test to help special children
Abandoned in a gurudwara at eight years of age by his parents, Gaurav, who suffers from mild mental retardation, had little hope in life. But 12 years down the line he is a registered hospitality professional who earns a decent salary and works at a food outlet of a leading chain of eating joints in the capital.
A confident young man now, Gaurav says all this was possible because of his training as a hospitality professional which he underwent after being tested for his skills. The test found that he was most suitable for work in the kitchen.
"This special test examines them for cognitive, functional and inter-personal ability," Alok Kumar Bhuwan, managing secretary, Manovikas Institute of Higher Education (MIHE) which conducts the course, told IANS. In India at present, this test called the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is being run for special people only at MIHE.
The MIHE is a charitable institute which provides opportunities to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to take courses using the national vocational education qualification framework.
The ministry of human resource development has approved the competency test which is conducted on children with mental and physical disability and who have not had any kind of formal education.
The child is given a set of questions which are then assessed using a special software.
"We feed the answers given to the questions by the students into the software which in turn tells us the field in which the student is interested," Bhuwan said.
According to a senior official in the human resource development ministry, who did not wish to be named, though under the Right to Education Act all schools have to admit children with special needs, most children are not able to make it to regular schools.
Gaurav said the six-month training helped him to overcome challenges and his limitations in decision-making, cleared his money concept and improved his functional writing.
"It was a Herculean task earlier," said Gaurav, who earns Rs. 6,500 per month with additional benefits at one of the 'Haldiram' outlets.
He disclosed that many customers find it difficult to differentiate between him and other employees.
Harish Vij also shared the same sentiments.
"In my village I had no friends, but after coming to Manovikas, I made friends and my teachers were very supportive. Today I am independent and when I go back home people don't make fun of me," he said.
Vij, who earlier couldn't write or read, is now running a training lab for retail students.
After being assessed for their abilities, the students get a certificate which is accepted in the National School of Open Learning, state open schools as well as other vocational training institutes.
A multi-level entry and exit system allows the student to seek employment after any level and rejoin education as and when feasible.
The students also have the option to move from the vocational stream to the general higher education stream or vice versa at various stages, Bhuwan said.
"The RPL test makes students with special needs aware of their abilities and gives them the confidence to face life," he said.
(Sreeparna Chakrabarty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 12-01-2014)