Tech Mahindra Foundation’s Inclusive Program Helps 40000 Students With Disabilities Access Education
Disability is a multi-dimensional and complex construct. There is no single universally accepted definition of disability. Further, the term disability is constantly evolving depending on legal, political and social discourses.
In India, reports suggest that about 35% of people with disabilities are aged between 10-29 years. Despite having such a large population of people with disabilities, there are very few opportunities catering to their empowerment and inclusion in society. A study by Plan International, a child advocacy organization, claims that children with disabilities are 10 times less likely to attend school as compared to other children.
Addressing these concerns, in 2006 Tech Mahindra Foundation (TMF) began its journey within the education sector. Their work focussed on specific areas of school education, education for employment, and technical education with support for persons with disabilities. They supported credible, small NGOs working towards enhancing the quality of education in Mumbai and Delhi.
In 2014, they directed all efforts towards creating an inclusive society and launched a special program named All Round Improvement in School Education for Children with Disabilities (ARISE+).
The organization says, “Through this, we have identified a huge challenge and gap in the area of social inclusion and mainstreaming of children with disabilities within families, schools, and employers. Initially, TMF focused on supporting the children studying in special schools (either privately run or supported by the government). Now, the program focuses on providing adequate education for persons with disabilities and enabling them to thrive fully despite their physiological challenges.”
The Foundation works in the area of school education for persons with disabilities between the age of 3-18 years. It also supports organizations working for the education of children with special needs schools to help and prepare them to achieve their best potential to be a part of the outside world.
To date, the project has reached out to more than 30 schools that had 40000+ students with disabilities. For their efforts, TMF was also honored at the 8th CSR Impact Awards, India CSR Summit. They won an award under the Special Category. This is Asia’s largest CSR Forum hosted by CSRBOX and Dalmia Bharat Foundation.
As part of the ARISE+ Program, students receive support in the form of special education as well as therapy as required and by leveraging assistive technology. This is implemented with the help of 20 supporting organizations across 9 locations in India.
These partners, which mainly include NGOs, are implementation partners that work for the education of children with different abilities. They aim to enable them with education, life skills, and therapies to become a part of mainstream society.
A few notable collaborations with industry veterans include Thinkerbell Labs which provides ANNIE- World's First Braille Literacy Device and GE Power which provides assistive technology.
The beneficiaries of ARISE+ projects are majorly from humble backgrounds and underserved communities. Most of the parents are daily wage earners who barely make ends meet. As they did not get an opportunity to break out of the poverty circle, they are hopeful of providing their children with better life prospects. For children with disabilities, the reality is far grimmer.
What is the ARISE+ Program?
The ARISE+ Program was launched on 1st April 2014. Through this, TMF encompasses its work in the area of school education for children with disabilities. It supports organizations working for such children to enable them with educational, life skills, and therapies to eventually become a part of the mainstream education system.
To ensure success a few interventions are necessary:
In addition to the component of Special Education, ARISE+ also ensures that the children receive ongoing and adequate therapy such as speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, etc. as per their requirements. The Program aligns with the United Nation’s SDG Goal 4 – Quality Education and it strives to make education inclusive for all.
TMF also follows a baseline assessment for each Project alongside the partner NGOs and TMF location team members. This helps to outline, plan and introduce program enhancements with counseling, training, and core interventions that are required to address the basic life skills, education, and therapy needs of children with disabilities.
Since its inception, the project has worked in several relevant areas. At present, they are working alongside 30 schools across India with an enrollment of 4,872 children.