January 19 2004

Including the Excluded - the Global Movement at the World Social Forum 2004

About Urvi Pithadia

Urvi was initially a student of National Resource Centre for Inclusion, Bandra, Mumbai , India; where she obtained a primary education. Thereafter she was included in Guru Harkrishan High School , Santacruz, Mumbai , India , in class VI. Today Urvi is a confident young girl, aged 12, studying in class VIII, has many friends and looks forward to an 'Inclusive World', where all children; with and without disabilities, can study, play and live together.

Speech on Inclusion by Urvi Pithadia given on 18th January 2004 at the panel discussion titled 'Children in a Globalising World' organised by the Global Movement for Children and CR4WSF, at the World Social Forum, Mumbai, India.

Inclusion means 'to include into'. Inclusive classrooms are a place where children with and without disabilities work and play together. I look at disability as a slight incapacity to function, and this little difference does not give anybody the authority or the right to discriminate. I refuse to be segregated on the basis of this slight disability. It's just not me, its all children with disabilities, whose voices echo through mine.

I was included into Guru Harkrishan High School , in the year 2001, in class VI. I remember being very excited when my earlier Principal at National Resource Centre for Inclusion told me that I could be included into a mainstream school. Just the thought made me feel very accepted. This is what I have always wanted to be - like all the other children.

Due to all the encouraging support, I have even won prizes in the science quiz and essay writing competition. Renowned and great scientist Stephen Hawkins is a great inspiration for me.

Hum kisi se kum nahin..." We are in no way less than others".

I do have a few suggestions as well, which I would like to share with you today. A child with disabilities should not be made to feel lesser in the society. They should be given equal opportunities. More awareness programmes for teachers from non-inclusive schools should be arranged. We should be allowed to interact with our peers as others and not made to be felt left out or out of place, because we have the same needs as others.

I feel that the Government should close down Special Schools and should make it compulsory for all children to be included at the earliest possible age - that would make things easier for everybody. It should also make it compulsory for all buildings and public places to be provided with basic facilities like lifts, ramps and disabled-friendly toilets. Though disabled-friendly buses have started in South Mumbai, they should start all over India. All people able and disabled must work together. The Government of India's policy of 'Education for all' is not enough. It should be 'EDUCATION FOR ALL – TOGETHER'. All what I have said about my experiences, is the story for lucky people like me, who have got all the opportunities, but the majority of children with disabilities all over the world are not sailing in the same boat. This is just the beginning; a lot needs to be done for inclusion to be a successful reality for children with disabilities all over the world.

I will work harder than I ever have, I will be stronger than I ever have, and I WILL BE A SUCCESS STORY... THIS IS MY AIM.... THIS IS MY AMBITION.... THAT ALL DISABLED SHOULD FIGHT FOR THEIR OWN RIGHTS.

Last but not the least, I am very thankful to my parents, the National Resource Centre for Inclusion for including me in a mainstream school and to my Principal Mrs. Vijaykar. Due to them I am here today in front of you all.

I repeat "Education for all" is not enough. It should be "EDUCATION FOR ALL – TOGETHER"

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