More teachers required to teach deafblind students

There are about five minutes left for the final bell to go at Clarke School for the Deaf, R.K. Salai and Deepika teacher's children show signs of restlessness. But, the teacher is full of enthusiasm cajoling one of her students who is crying and a few others who want her attention. The strength of the class is five, but what makes her job challenging is that no single method works for all the children. “Being with them is the most joyful moment,” says Deepika Srinivasan, who has been the teacher with this batch for over four years now. Over 37 children with deafblindness attend school at Sadhana Unit for Deafblind. Programmes for children with deafblindness are tailored according to the individual's strength and style.

Deepika and her colleagues are the modern day Anne Sullivans, best known as the companion and teacher of Helen Keller. June 27 is observed as the birth anniversary of Helen Keller, the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. As non governmental organisations and special schools organised events to mark the day, it is also an occasion to create awareness on the need for more trained teachers to take up the profession.

According to an estimate from non-governmental organisation Sense International (India), gathered from its 41 partner organisations working in 20 states, there are 4.5 lakh persons with deafblindness in India. But, the number of trained teachers to handle children with multiple disabilities is very small in number. The ideal teacher student ratio should be 1:6 or 1:4 depending on the nature of disability.

“There are only three institutions in India offering a diploma programme for deafblindness that is recognised by the Rehabilitation Council of India,” says Brahada Shanker, Regional Coordinator (South) of Sense International (India). They are Helen Keller Institute for the Deaf and Deafblind, Mumbai, Clarke School for the Deaf and National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD) near Chennai.

Leelavathy Patrick, founder of Clarke School for Deaf, agrees that getting teachers to handle children with multiple disabilities is difficult. “Early identification and intervention is a must and parents must be aware of the disability of the child from the beginning itself,” she says why more teachers are required as more children are getting identified for deafblindness.

Neeradha Chandramohan, Director, NIEPMD, says equal opportunities should be provided to teachers specialising in multiple disabilities. “More qualified and competent teachers are required to identify, train and make persons with deafblindness economically and socially independent. More number of NGOs should come forward to take up the course and we will be ready to offer help,” says Dr. Neeradha.

Dipti Karnad, coordinator of Diploma in Education (deafblindness), of Clarke School says every school for the deaf must agree that if there are children with vision and hearing losses, they have to be given compensatory skills. Candidates with a 45 per cent marks in Plus Two are eligible for the diploma programme. After completing the programme, these candidates can seek employment in special schools for children with deafblindness, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and units attached to schools for children with hearing impairment, visual impairment and early intervention programmes, says Ms. Karnad.


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