Bombay HC asks govt to assess e-learning for specially-abled students

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by an NGO, through advocate Uday Warunjikar

The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the district social welfare authorities across Maharashtra to assess the ongoing digital education programme for specially-abled students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta directed district social welfare officers to pay “surprise visits” over the next two weeks to centres that were providing digital education to such students, and to assess how the system was fairing and if there were any deficiencies.

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by an NGO, through advocate Uday Warunjikar, seeking relief for specially-abled school and college students during the COVID-19 unlock phase.

The Maharashtra government had submitted an affidavit in the High Court last month stating that it had started e- learning under the Centre’s ‘Diksha’ platform for the specially-abled.

The state submitted that it had set up e-learning centres from where teachers could impart virtual lessons and that there was also a mobile application through which students can access such classes.

However, on Thursday, advocate Warunjikar told the court that at least 70% of disabled students in the state lived in rural areas, where they were facing problems of poor internet connectivity.

The concerned teachers had not been trained by the state to conduct virtual classes for specially-abled students, he added.

At this, the bench said district officers would conduct the surprise checks and said if they find something lacking at these e-learning centres, requisite assistance must be provided.

The court directed the district social welfare officers to submit their assessment report to the joint secretary of the state’s social justice and special assistance department.

The joint secretary, in turn, will file an affidavit in the High Court giving details of the reports received.

In the meanwhile, the court said all stakeholders must make “sincere efforts to impart online education” to such students.

The bench also directed the Union government and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to file their respective responses to the plea in two weeks.

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