Child cancer patients can now study in hospital

A classroom session under way at TMH— Photo: Special Arrangement  

The prolonged and intensive treatment of cancer will no longer mean a break from learning for the young ones taking treatment at the Tata Memorial Hospital.

The hospital’s paediatric facility now offers classes right on its premises, and even arranges for children to go to a school dedicated to young cancer patients.

The service, being offered by Impacct Foundation, the paediatric foundation of TMH, the country’s premier oncology facility, started in March this year and has already managed to engage children — both in-patients and out-patients — with activities and classroom sessions that keeps their mind active and ensures an easy transition to academics once their treatment is over, doctors said here on Tuesday. Most importantly, it makes them feel normal.

Announcing the launch formally, Dr Shripad Banavali, head of department, paediatric and medical oncology, TMH said that while so far the hospital was only taking care of the financial need of general category patients, they realised that a more holistic approach was needed, and more so in the case of children. “We were nurturing the body, now we also nurture the mind,” he said, adding that 70 to 80 per cent children get totally cured and only proper education can ensure they are an active part of the society. As part of the initiative, a customised educational programme is given to children in the ward, in addition to short activities that are conducted for children in the waiting area.

While the classes inside the hospital are conducted by professional teachers of Mindsprings Enrichment Centre that works with a cross-section of children with specific learning needs, some young patients are also sent to Canshala, a school run by Can Kids, for children suffering from cancer, at Elphinstone Road.

At the end of the treatment, when children are fit to go back to their regular school, Canshala issues a certificate so that they don’t miss a year.

Priya Iyer of Mindsprings said the programme was designed after a pilot study on how to reach out and connect with these children.

“Teachers use non-verbal means of communication to overcome language barriers since children at TMH come from all over the country,” she said.

Doctors emphasised that education is often the first casualty in young cancer patients undergoing treatment – with the focus shifting from studies to hospital. “And this affects the child’s cognitive abilities due to lack of stimulation,” said Dr Banavali.

The education plan is well drawn out. Shalini Jatia, secretary, Impacct Foundation, said they register every child who comes for treatment to TMH, find out which school he or she goes to, the medium of instruction and then initiate a programme based on that.

The programme is driven by NGOs, individuals and corporates through the Corporate Social Responsibility Arm.

Gaurav Narula, professor, paediatric oncology, said the programme has matured in the last nine months and was already showing results with children eager to be part of the classroom sessions.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 10:57:02 AM |

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