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Tare Zameen par: Does everyone find their Raam?

Agha has the same disability as the star Kid!

While watching an Indian Film, "Tare Zameen Par," my 15-year-old cousin shouted this sentence for his 12-year-old brother.

For a moment, I was stunned to listen to this, and ultimately, my focus shifted toward the film's theme. The film depicts an 8-year-old boy Ishan with the mental illness "dyslexia," i.e., a Learning disability in processing words and numbers, who eventually comes under the guardian of an unconventional art teacher "Raam," and overcomes his disability to function properly in a boarding school. Hearing those words hedged my mind with multiple thoughts about whether every student in Pakistan finds their Raam? are there any international or governmental efforts done to cater to the educational needs of such students in Pakistan? or are they left all alone at the mercy of their fates?. Thus, my curiosity led me to research; hence, below are some of these questions' findings.

According to the World Bank Report on Disability in 2019, the ratio of disabled students in Pakistan is 3.56% of the total population. Due to the lack of constitutional support in identifying the issue, there are many discrepancies in providing an apparent ratio of mentally and physically disabled students in Pakistan.

While on the other hand, there had been very minimal efforts on a governmental basis to cater educational needs of such students.

The detailed research enlisted only two programs the Government of Pakistan implemented to educate these students. The first incorporated into Punjab was named "The Punjab Educational Program," which provides educational (free textbooks, braille books, pick & drop, monthly stipend, skill development, and training courses) and rehabilitative services (physiotherapy, speech therapy, and play therapy) to such students. While the second one was established by the government of Sindh, named as Center for Autism Rehabilitation and Training (C-ART), which is responsible for providing free-of-charge education to autistic children in Karachi and Hyderabad. Except for these two rest of the provinces of Pakistan sufficiently lack mechanisms to provide educational support to students with disabilities.

Secondly, the question of whether every student finds their raam?, elaborates over the purpose that at what level in Pakistan parents and teachers are aware of this issue and to what extent they struggle to become Raam of their children/students. According to the research, cultural stigmatization of students with mental disabilities varies based on the socio-cultural and economic aspects of those students, parents, and teachers. However, to a greater extent, such students have been prone to cultural stigmatization and discrimination. Moreover, if there is minimal awareness about such issues between teachers or parents, there have been no training or guidelines provided by the government to educate them about facilitation ways to cater educational needs of such students.

In order to not nullify the minimal steps taken by the government of Pakistan to help students with disabilities, it would be sufficient to say that the government has started giving attention to the stated issue. However, there needs to be more detailed research, policy-making, and implementation to support such students completely. UNICEF's report "Disability-Inclusive Education Practices in Pakistan" provides the below-mentioned recommendation to the Government of Pakistan to build a proper mechanism to help disabled students.

  1. To strengthen coordination mechanisms.

  2. To conduct a review of financing and funding mechanisms.

  3. To assess the monitoring and evaluation systems in place.

  4. Make sure funds are allocated for inclusive strategies for educating students with disabilities.

  5. Strengthen professional development assistance for disabled students at schools.

  6. Examine pre-service and in-service teacher preparation.

  7. Create policies and procedures to deal with violence in schools.

  8. To assess the implementation of laws and policies on disability-inclusive education.

  9. To assess how the Minimum Standards for Quality Education are used in schools.

To conclude, it has become non-negligible for the government of Pakistan to take necessary actions and for parents and teachers to adopt unconventional ways to become "raam" of these exceptional students so they do not fail to achieve their purposes only due to never-worthy ignomies or insufficient policies.

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