It is the only residential school run by the State government for boys with visual impairment in the city, but it could certainly do with more care.
Along the highway on Poonamalle, tucked away amid trees is the Government Higher Secondary School for Blind. A little before noon, children run around happily as a holiday has been declared. “They would otherwise be in class. Today, they all went to a rally so they are tired,” assured a teacher. Not many are seen in uniform because most children have just one pair, which, in most cases, is torn. “These are children whose parents are not much interested in their studies. Most come from very poor families,” the teacher added.
Till 2010, the school which had very few teachers, used to have disastrous results in class X and class XII. A teacher recollects how two years ago, almost 90 per cent of students failed in one subject alone. “We have more teachers now, so the situation has improved. Getting teachers to work here is always a problem. Even now, we need teachers for geography and several other subjects,” another assistant said.
The students are more forthright though. “We have classes but our seniors don’t have regular sessions. They have more free periods because they have few teachers,” one boy said. Infrastructure is also a key concern as demonstrated by the leaking ceilings in many classrooms. Many of the hostel rooms are also in need of immediate attention, say students. Teachers are hopeful though of things improving. “We have been granted Rs 2 crore. Soon, the problems will get solved with the renovation,” a teacher added.
Special provisions ensure that even students above the age of 20 study in the school. “There is wide disparity in every classroom and few teachers understand that. Our struggle is to just get them to class and make them learn a few things so that they clear the board exams,” said another teacher. “Now that the government has given them an extra hour in the exam, we hope they will all pass,” he added.
The State government runs ten other residential schools for children with visual impairment across the State including one exclusively for girls in Tiruchi.
“Children join us very late here. You have ten-year-old boys studying in class II and so on. We don’t have many trained teachers to motivate them,” said another teacher. Many students are from rural parts of the State such as Dharmapuri, Erode and Cuddalore. The students don’t drop out but many remain absent for many days when they go home, said a helper at the school.