After month-long protest, government agrees to upgrade special school in Thanjavur. This will allow students to complete their school education there

The determination of a group of visually-impaired school students to remain in Thanjavur instead of coming to Chennai for higher education has paid off.

After a month-long protest, the government has finally agreed to allow the students to complete classes XI and XII in Thanjavur by upgrading the special school there.

Earlier, all students from Thanjavur, who had completed class X had to come to Chennai or go to Tiruchi to finish their schooling as, even though the Thanjavur school has all the necessary facilities, it hasn’t been formally upgraded

The 22 students, who passed the class X examinations held in March, are from rural families with modest incomes. Until last year, the girls had to go to the higher secondary school in Tiruchi, while the boys came to the school in Poonamallee, Chennai.

For several years, successive batches of students had appealed to the government to upgrade their school and allow it to offer classes XI and XII, but in vain.

For two years, the department for the welfare of the differently abled had promised to upgrade the school, but nothing had come of it.

Soon after the results came out this year, several parents, who are agricultural labourers, weavers or lorry cleaners, signed a statement refusing to send their children to Tiruchi or Chennai, for their higher secondary education.

Though boarding and lodging is free at these schools, parents said that if they wanted to visit their children, they would not be able to do so as they could not afford it.

K.A. Sudarshan, a labourer who weaves silk saris on a contract basis said, “My daughter Sangeetha is completely blind. I earn Rs. 100-120 a day and I cannot afford periodical visits to Tiruchi. The school in Thanjavur is only 8 km from home and if she is here, I can visit her whenever I want to.”

The Thanjavur school for the visually-impaired was started in 1975 and upgraded as a high school in 2005. There are currently 135 students in the school, while the sanctioned strength is 125.

The school has the required student strength to declare it a higher secondary school, say representatives of the Tamil Nadu Differently Abled Teachers’ Association.

According to them, the delay in upgrading the school is due to a lack of coordination between the department’s secretary and commissioner.

On Wednesday, the association’s representatives met with social welfare minister B. Valarmathi.

Late in the evening, they met with R. Vaithilingam, a minister elected from Orathanadu, Thanjavur. Mr. Vaithilingam not only recommended their case to Ms. Valarmathi, but also explained the reason for the delay.

“As he is a minister from our district we are happy that our representatives were able to meet him and explain the students’ predicament. The students can now return to school and continue schooling in Thanjavur itself,” said Suresh Kumar, a teacher at the school.

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