Cleft lip or palate, a physical deformity, can also have severe social repercussions in a society obsessed with looks. Children with cleft lips are either abandoned or neglected by parents, and poked and teased among siblings. Rehabilitation is as big a task as is correction of the deformity.

The Hyderabad Cleft Society (HCS), in association with Cleft Children International(CCI), a Switzerland-based NGO, began a ‘Cleft School’- claimed to be the first ever in the world-with the aim of rehabilitating the children suffering from craniofacial defects.

Named ‘Hermann Sailer Erica Schwob Cleft School’, after the benefactor-couple from CCI, the school was inaugurated on Sunday at the GSR Institute of Craniofacial Surgery at Santoshnagar. Though named a school, the project is presently limited to a hostel for the children.

“The school presently has 24 children, most of them orphaned and abandoned. New premises under construction will accommodate 100 more children, and within five years, we want to expand it to house 500 children. The aim is to see them grow up to become orthodontists and speech therapists working for the cause of cleft children,” said Rajagopal Reddy, a surgeon with the HCS. The children, who already went through surgical procedure, are being sent to a school in the neighbourhood, and the cost of their education will be borne by the foundation, he informed.

HCS has been providing free or low cost surgical options to patients from low socio economic backgrounds, informed Srinivas Gosla Reddy, the maxillofacial surgeon from the Society. Surgery will be followed by counselling, speech therapy, orthodontics, and with the latest initiative, free accommodation, food and education too.

A ‘Parents Group’ will be formed to spread awareness about the deformity and its cure. Mayor B. Karthika Reddy, who arrived as the Chief Guest, praised the initiative and assured support from GHMC. Hermann F. Sailer, the founder of the CCI, said his vision of an educational initiative from the foundation, took shape as the school.

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