With the famous and thought-provoking songs from the films of M.G. Ramachandran being played out loud in the background, school students enthusiastically took part in the sports events such as running race, frog race, throw-ball and tug-of-war.

What made this seemingly-normal scene at the Panchayat Union Middle School in Narasimhanaickenpalayam very unique was that a majority of the participants were special children with different disabilities who were showcasing their talents and going toe-to-toe with others from their age group.

An annual initiative of the Inclusive Education for the Disabled (IED) component of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), this ‘Inclusive Sports Day’ was intended to integrate differently abled children into the mainstream.

Besides giving them a boost and according them recognition, the officials said that the physical activity also helped the special children keep themselves fit and focus on their studies.

Similar scenes played out in 212 schools in Coimbatore and Tirupur on Thursday and Friday with a total of 8,480 students taking part. Of these, 7,025 students were from the three components of IED: day-care centres, home-based children and IED school children.

The rest were Government school students of Standards I to VIII. Forty students were drawn from each school. Nine to ten schools were drawn from each one of the SSA Coimbatore’s 22 blocks, seven of which fall in Tirupur revenue district.

The SSA, officials said, was spending more than Rs. 10 lakh on this initiative, in which bags were given to all participants in keeping with the concept that all of them were winners. The prizes included bags and stationery items.

Organisers said that they were bringing in government officers and other officials to these events so that they could witness for themselves the potential of special children.

Chief Education Officer A. Gnanagowri, Coimbatore Additional Chief Education Officer (SSA) R. Thiruvalarselvi, District Elementary Education Officer T. Ganeshamoorthy and District Educational Officer (Coimbatore) R. Balamurali gave away the prizes.