This paper presents the findings of a qualitative enquiry into how young with various impairments understand the role played by education in their lives. The research, carried out in urban and rural Madhya Pradesh, India, contrasts the poor outcomes for these young people in terms of employment with young people’s own sense of the value of schooling in enhancing their social skills and opportunities, and their cultural capital, particularly in terms of how they are able to confront stigmatising attitudes. Whereas the ‘significant others’ (primarily, parents) regard schooling as a failure if it does not lead to jobs, the young people themselves focus on education’s enabling roles.
The most positive outcomes of schooling were found to be: the boost to young people’s social capital – their ability to manage social relationships beyond the household, with the state – and their ability to counter negative stereotypes and hold their heads up with much more self-confidence than would otherwise be the case. In a few cases these were manifested in substantial organisational and political skills that offer the potential for young people with disabilities to play much stronger roles in reshaping the policy context surrounding them than has been true so far.
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