The special school for mentally retarded students, “Dhaya,” located on Pudupalayam Main Road in Cuddalore, has completed 14 years of its eventful existence. Started with just three students in 1996, it now has 28 students on its rolls and there is a likelihood of more joining the school.

It also houses an old-age home “Samarpan,” in which there are 18 inmates, including 14 women and four men. The school will move into its own building at Vanniyarpalayam by May.

For the construction of classrooms on the new premises, the State government has given a grant of Rs.5 lakh, according to S. Arunachalam, trustee of the Cuddalore Educational Foundation that runs the school.

Ever since its inception, the school is being run on munificence and donations. V.Anantharaman, an auditor now settled in Puducherry, has given the present building rent free and has also donated Rs.3 lakh for its upkeep.

Speaking at the 14th annual day celebrations, Mr. Arunachalam said that a study conducted recently had revealed that there were as many as 300 mentally retarded children residing in and around Cuddalore town.

However, they could not afford to come to the school because they would have to shell out Rs.1,000 a month on autorickshaws. Therefore, the school had proposed to buy a pick-up van or a minibus. The school had approached organisations and financial institutions for mobilising the funds.

Mr. Arunachalam said it was the vision of the foundation to make it a residential school and construct industrial sheds for the manufacture of phenyl, incense sticks and camphor so as to help the students to acquire livelihood skills.

Assistant General Manager of SBI (Puducherry region) Suresh Johnson said the students were special because of their skills in education, music, histrionics and sports. When the so-called healthy people were frittering away their energy on unwanted things, it was laudable that the special children remained focused on honing their skills.

Mr. Johnson assured the foundation that after having discussions with the trustees he would (on behalf of SBI) render maximum possible help to the school. On the occasion, he gave away awards to winners of various competitions.

District Differently Abled Officer T.Srinivasan listed out the various welfare measures launched by the government for the differently-abled persons. G.S.Sundaram, managing trustee; R.Ganapathy, secretary; R.Mahaveermull, treasurer, K.Thirumalai, trustee; and K.Govindarajan, SBI Manjakuppam branch manager, participated.

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