Thursday, June 4, 2009

Teachers failed to read dyslexic girl, India

The numerical ‘2’ is inverted, making it look almost like ‘5’; ‘4’ is written upside down; and ‘3’ changes shapes all through. The first page of Shanno Khan’s Mathematics notebook is a revelation: the 11-year-old, who died on Friday, allegedly a victim of corporal punishment, was dyslexic.

All her teachers in the MCD school at Bawana knew Shanno wrote incorrectly but they were not trained to know that she needed special treatment.

“She was certainly dyslexic and needed special treatment,” confirmed Dr Jayanti Dutta, consultant clinical psychologist and a doctorate in dyslexia, after looking at Shanno’s writing. “She would have skipped letters without knowing and could not have recited answers fluently. She was dyslexic.”

Newsline has a copy of her notebook.

Shanno’s classmates have said that the teacher, Manju Rathee, 27, made her stand in the sun for almost two hours on Wednesday afternoon with bricks on her shoulders. Shanno had reportedly failed to offer correct answers in class that had left the teacher irate. Sources said the postmortem — the police are yet to get a report (see box) — suggests Shanno, who was epileptic and had a history of lung and respiratory problems, developed complications after the punishment.

She slipped into coma, and died on Friday.

“Municipal school teachers never go through the necessary rigorous training necessary for teachers, especially in dealing with issues like learning disability,” Dutta said. “We have conducted numerous workshops about dyslexic children at private schools but MCD schools are never interested in such workshops.”

Delhi’s Education Secretary Reena Ray said, “We did not know that she was dyslexic.” She said the Delhi government would soon begin several initiatives under its ‘Yuva’ programme, in collaboration with social jurist Ashok Aggarwal. The programme would deal with training teachers to handle children with special needs, such as autistic children.

“We have already employed 50 special educators who will teach in our schools,” Ray said. “We will also send teachers for a three-month programme to the Rehabilitation Council of India to sensitise them about handling such special cases.”

Jurist and social activist Ashok Aggarwal met Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely on Tuesday and demanded that all municipal schools be brought under the ambit of the Delhi government.

Meanwhile, inside the small hutment in Bawana where Shanno lived, her notebooks lie in a polythene bag under a heap of strewn clothes. Her English alphabet notebook has the same jumbled and wrongly drawn alphabets. “She did not get any books because the school had just started. There are only her notebooks here,” Shanno’s mother Rihana Khatoun said.

Shanno’s slightly bended drawing book is stacked at the bottom. On the first few pages are some random drawings of a sun rising above the mountains. She had misspelt her name on the book as well.

For Shanno, dyslexia was not a film narrative — it cost her her life.

Day 4: Cops await autopsy report

Four days after her death, police are still waiting for the postmortem report to ascertain whether Shanno Khan, 11, was a victim of corporal punishment. “We spoke to some of her classmates today,” a senior officer said. “But we cannot further our probe without the autopsy report.” Sources said there is a delay as blood samples are being taken and matched.

Police have so far recorded statements of Shanno’s parents and the teacher accused of meting out the corporal punishment, Manju Rathee.

Meanwhile, the MCD’s vigilance department issued a statement on Tuesday denying media reports that it has given a clean chit to the teacher. An official said, “There is no question of a clean chit to the teacher, or reaching any conclusion, since the vigilance department is yet to submit the report.”

Over 100 protesters, mainly women, today staged a demonstration outside the Delhi Police headquarters at ITO and sought the teacher’s arrest

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