Dedicated teachers and supporting neighbourhood are among the few comforting factors
For any educational institution, entering its 25th year is a landmark as the silver jubilee year ushers in a new era of change, development and celebrations. But this is not so for a government school in Tambaram catering to a section of the differently abled belonging to the poorest among the poor and underprivileged.
The Government School for the Hearing Impaired in Tambaram has so far functioned from four premises – two marriage halls, for a brief period in a government premises and now from a three-storey rented house in Mudichur.
The institution comes under State Commissionerate for the Differently Abled of the Social Welfare Department. Established in 1987, it was formed to provide formal school education to hearing impaired children of Kancheepuram district. It was functioning from a marriage hall for about 12 years and another eight years from another marriage hall, both in West Tambaram.
For a few months, the school was shifted to the Government Service Home of the Social Welfare Department in Tambaram Sanatorium and for the past four years, has been functioning from a house on Natarajan Salai, Mudichur on a monthly rent of Rs.12,000.
There are nearly 50 children from different areas of the district and suburbs of Chennai in classes between I and VIII. Sessions for two different classes are held in the same room. The classrooms are cramped.
“The dedication and the patience of the teachers had to be seen to be believed,” said K.S. Raja, a resident of Old Perungalathur, adding that space was the most important problem in the school.
The teachers, according to government officials, completed a special one-year training programme to teach the children as it required sign language and lip reading. In addition to six teachers who taught the different subjects, there was a warden and two aayas who stayed on the school premises throughout.
All subjects are taught to the children, while exemption is given for languages. Mr. Raja said the support extended by the neighbourhood was overwhelming in the form of play and learning materials. The students are provided wholesome meals and are taken good care of by the aayas.
Chella Subramanian, general secretary of Lakshmi Nagar Residents Welfare Association, Mudichur, said the hearing impaired students were like any other children of their age, but were deprived of a play area and open space. The only entertainment was a couple of hours of television in the evening hours. The urgent need was for constructing new buildings with adequate facilities for the children to play.
Nirmala Bhaskar, former president of Mudichur Village Panchayat, said huge tracts of land classified as ‘meikaal tharisal' (grazing assessed waste land) were available in Mannivakkam, Varadharajapuram and Mudichur, coming under Kattankulathur, Kunrathur and St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Unions respectively of Kancheepuram district.
If steps were taken by the government to allot even one acre of land, a proper school building with adequate facilities for dining areas, dormitories and wash rooms could be constructed. People would only be too willing to provide financial and other forms of support, Ms. Bhaskar added.
An official at the State Commissionerate said land was identified for constructing new buildings in and around Mudichur. Plans for the buildings were obtained from the Public Works Department and they were waiting for the Kancheepuram District Administration to give its approval so that they could start the work.