A sports festival for differently-abled children of the day care centre run by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan under its Inclusive Education for the Differently-abled (IED) was held at the St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union Primary School, Medavakkam on December 17.

The festival was conducted to foster a spirit of competition among children and encourage them to pursue excellence, according to special educators and support staff who take personal care of each of the 26-differently-abled children at the centre. “I like the centre more than my home,” said Karthik, one of the students— a testimony to the dedication and care of the staff. The students took part in athletics, lemon on the spoon race, potato gathering and filling water in a jug. All students walked away with packets of crayon, sketch pens, a bag and other play material.

According to the special educators, there are 392 school-going children coming within the jurisdiction of St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union (Rural) of SSA. Of them, 26 attended the day-care centre in Medavakkam five days a week. The students are provided nutritious lunch and snacks everyday. Most of the differently-abled children at the centre are affected by cerebral palsy. There have been instances of children from the centre joining regular schools. Apart from the special educators, other staff included a coordinator and helpers. An elected representative from the Panchayat Union said the centre was started in 2003 with eight differently-abled children. There are only two day care centres in the area, the other being at Pallavaram, and increasing the number would help many differently-abled children. The Panchayat Union Councillor said that the centre lacked a proper kitchen and at present food was prepared on a kerosene stove. There was a proposal to construct a new kitchen, the councillor said, adding that steps for the same should be expedited.

The physiotherapist currently visiting the centre was also in-charge of day care centres in Tirupporur and Kunrathur Panchayat Unions. If each Panchayat Union had its own physiotherapist, it would be possible to take personal care of the children on a daily basis, the councillor added.

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