The Education Ministry has been urged to provide more education services aimed specifically at disabled children.
A group of representatives of organisations and associations for disabled people made the demand during a recent meeting with Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana.
Chusak Jantayanond, secretary-general of the Disabilities Thailand Association and the group's leader, said more than half a million children with disabilities are kept out of the education system because schools say they are not ready to accommodate them. Of the 800,000 children with disabilities in the country, only 200,000 of them are educated in the formal and non-formal systems, he said. The rest are educated at home.
Bangkok has about 10,000 disabled children of compulsory school age, but only 10% are enrolled in the education system. The rest are taught at home.
Mr Chusak, who has a 21-year-old autistic daughter, said every child has the right to a basic education, including those with disabilities.
Disabled children can get an education by attending mainstream schools with services for children with disabilities, non-formal schools, special schools and learning disabilities centres.
Mr Chusak said ideally children with disabilities should be sent to mainstream schools, but unfortunately the doors are often closed to them as most schools say they are not ready to teach these children. Many parents are forced to send their children to attend special schools for disabled people. About 42 of these special schools are operating nationwide.
Mr Chusak said he decided to establish a learning centre for autistic children to offer a better education for his daughter and to keep her close to home.
"Otherwise, I would have had to send my daughter to a psychiatric hospital somewhere. I do not mean the hospital is not good, but children are unable to learn about the outside world there," he said.
Mr Chusak said his group also asked the ministry set up a hotline for schools which have admitted disabled children, so their parents will not have to run around looking for schools.
The group also demanded the ministry provide technical support to schools to help them develop and improve the learning skills of disabled students.
Computer tablets under the government's "One Tablet Per Child" programme have been offered to disabled children but they could not use them properly because they contained no software specifically designed for disabled children, Mr Chusak said.
He said there are many laws and regulations which uphold the rights of disabled children but they have not been implemented well.
The education minister should ensure the basic rights of disabled children are respected, he said.
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- Writer: Lamphai Intathep