Disabled students given chance to study in Moscow schools

Millions of Russian students are returning to school after a three-month-long summer holiday, getting back down to work with mixed feelings of enthusiasm and trepidation.

This year officials in Moscow are piloting a scheme aimed at integrating disabled students into mainstream schools.

Some schools have already been integrating disabled pupils for a number of years. Now Moscow is officially starting such integration based on the decision of Moscow’s State Duma. A bill has been passed that says there could be up to three disabled students in a classroom, but this number cannot exceed 10% of the overall student body.

It is difficult for people living with disabilities to get around on the streets, more so for them to integrate into society because of the stigma attached with being disabled. However, this new program is meant to tackle that at an early age.

Students do not describe their classmates as disabled or not disabled – they all are just regular students. They are not allowed to use those terms in a classroom. The program is aimed at changing the attitudes towards disabled students; to treat them with tolerance, respect and acceptance. It also gives the body of students living with disabilities the chance to experience something that all kids want to be a part of: going to a regular classroom, making friends, and playing.

As a first year pupil, Gosha Bychkov said, “I really want to go to school and I'm happy I can study now, because so many schools refused to take me before, just because I can't walk.”

His mother told RT that “Of course I'm worried about him, but I want him to be more social, to be independent and to get a real profession in the future.”

Unfortunately it is not possible to introduce all disabled students to start integrated lessons in ordinary schools this year. Nevertheless, up to 200 Moscow schools welcomed such students today. Many of them are coming to Moscow from quite far away for an opportunity to have this kind of educational experience.

By next year all schools will be obliged to be ready with special desks to have more integrated classrooms.