Bustling classrooms, children flipping through text books — at first sight this school in Begumpet looks like any ordinary school. A closer look reveals a different picture.
The Devnar School for the Blind is tucked away in a corner of Begumpet in Mayuri Marg. About 500 students study here. Aided by corporates and individuals, the school is free for all the students. Unfortunately, this is also the only English medium school for the visually challenged, as well as one of the three such schools in the City.
According to a WHO report, 39 million people in the world are blind. About 90 per cent of the world’s visually challenged live in developing countries.
There are a staggering 15 million blind people in India, two million of whom are children. In fact, one out of every three visually challenged people in the world live in India alone.
Hyderabad has an estimated 2 lakh children who are visually challenged. For a number that high, there are only three schools — Devnar School for the Blind, Darus Safa School for the Blind for Boys, and Malakpet School for the Blind for Girls. The number of students studying in these schools is a meager 740. The State has just eight schools.
“Many parents whose children are visually challenged, aren’t aware of how the potential of such children can be tapped. Unfortunately, there aren’t many schools in the City that cater to them. Visually impaired children are focused on what they want. Their IQ is high and the mental capacity is as high as other children. If you expose them to different topics, they can learn well. Education and a job can give them a secure future,” pointed out Lily Egbert, principal, Devnar School.
Take for example Zubair and Amir, who studied at Devnar. Zubair is now a lecturer in Jawaharlal Nehru University, while Amir works as an HR with an MNC.
“Visually challenged people are now working successfully and even paying taxes to the government. They can do any job. However, the bigger problem is enrolment. Parents should have the courage to send their children to such schools. There is a lot of demand for blind schools, and NGOs are working towards it. The facilities for the visually challenged should improve. Enrolment and opening schools go hand in hand,” opined Dr A Saibabab Goud, founder and
chairman of Devnar.
Teachers in such schools need to complete a B.Ed in Visual Impairment and learn braille (a form of written language for the visually challenged), have immense patience, and love what they do. In Devnar, many teachers are also parents of visually challenged children.
The government is doing their bit, or so they claim. “We are opening Kasturba Gandhi School for the Blind and Hearing Impaired in all the districts. It has opened in some of the districts and will soon be open in all as well. The Anganwadi workers and Indira Kranthi Pathakam workers, along with the education department, is roaming door-to-door and counselling the parents,” said Sunitha Laxma Reddy, minister for juvenile welfare.
“We are sanctioning free metric and post-metric scholarships to students, as well as providing MP3 players, laptops, apart from training them in computers. The government is also sanctioning grants to NGOs. The Central minister for social justice said that if we can propose a plan by August, he will sanction more grants. We even requested the CM for more sanctions. He suggested inclusive education where mainstream schools can have separate sections for them,” she added.
The fact remains that there is an urgent need for more schools that cater to them. As the tag line of the Devnar reads ‘The blind need opportunity not sympathy’.