KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has expressed serious concerns over registration of only 3,653 special children out of 300,000 across the province and directed the provincial authorities to provide facilities to all physically-challenged children.

The two-judge bench comprising Justices Salahuddin Panhwar and Adnan-ul-Karim Memon also formed a committee to visit rehabilitation and autism centres in the province to ascertain the available facilities, building condition and teaching staff after an official claimed that Rs150 million had been allocated for such purpose.

It also directed the committee to examine the medical facilities being provided at such centres and whether the health department was providing treatment to children, including major surgery and to give recommendations with regard to provision of facilities, upgrade and improvement of education and asked it to complete this exercise within two weeks.

When the bench took up the matter for hearing, the secretary of the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities (DEPD), Akhtar Bugti, contended that as per Bureau of Statistics there were 300,000 physically challenged children whereas registered special children in six rehabilitation centres of the province were 3,653 only.

Court takes exception to the fact that of 300,000 special children in the province only 3,653 are registered

The bench said that this was a pure denial of rights of such children and compelled the court to take cognizance as only 3,653 students were receiving education thereby closing the doors upon majority of such children.

“Accordingly, the department through special secretary shall pursue government of Sindh and ensures that all special children receive all facilities”, it added.

The secretary further maintained that the department was providing education and transport facility, but there were recruitment rules about special qualification and training within the department and many posts were lying vacant, adding that autism centres and academies had been established under the Sindh Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Act 2018.

At this juncture, it surfaced that there were 176 sanctioned posts of BPS-17 whereas only 50 teachers/officers were working in the DEPD. The bench deplored that poor number of registered special children was already an alarming situation while sanctioned posts were also not filled.

It directed the secretary to ensure that rest of the posts were filled on urgent basis, maybe on ad-hoc basis if law provided so, and those appointed on ad-hoc basis would not be entitled to insist for their regularisation except through Sindh Public Service Commission.

The bench also constituted a five-member committee after the secretary of DEPD claimed that Rs150m had been allocated for rehabilitation and autism centres.

It said that the committee will visit and submit its report till Sept 30 regarding the performance of rehabilitation and autism enters.

While referring to a small number of special children registered with rehabilitation centres the bench said that there must be an awareness campaign as provided under the act about such institutions and healthcare facilities.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021

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