Aims and Objectives
- To run a school (non-formal education) for handicapped (hearing-impaired) children upto Class 10.
- To provide computer software training for profoundly hearing impaired youth.
- To provide skilling with vocational literacy for older profoundly hearing impaired youth.
- To assist them to obtain employment.
- To establish a resource centre and a data bank for potential employment/job opportunities.
The objectives of the Society includes providing education and vocational training to disabled youth, a neglected segment in most societies worldwide. Darshan decided that the first step toward achieving this goal was to set up a special school for young hearing impaired children, (‘catch them young’) providing them hearing aids and special learning techniques, special teachers, speech therapists, learning visual appliances, uniforms and importantly a nourishing mid-day meal, not least because of their general problems of malnourishment and hygiene.
- Speech School for Hearing Impaired Children: After the building work was completed and all formalities executed, Darshan first opened its doors in 2008 to young hearing-impaired children. There is no other such facility in or near the city of Jaipur. Hearing impaired children are neglected children in several senses. Because they are hearing impaired, they have difficulty getting admissions to government schools even as education in government schools is completely free; this is because hearing-impaired children are not able to hear and understand conventional teaching methods and are therefore not in a position to keep up with studies. Hearing impaired children are often neglected in the home environment, and are sometimes put to doing domestic chores very early in their lives.
At Darshan, our effort is to provide a safe, friendly, and happy environment. Lots of sunshine. A hot meal. Special nourishment such as milk and fruits. Yoga, crafts and games to relax and develop the mind and body. And dedicated studies. The children admitted to Darshan all belong to below-poverty-line families. On admission, they are provided with one hearing aid initially (for one ear) and later after they have learned to manage the use of one, they are provided with the second. According to international norms, there should be no more than 8-10 children per special class, as it is difficult for special educators to teach a class of more than 10 HI children. Darshan’s work over all these years could not possible without the generosity of the Starkey Foundation which provided Darshan hearing aids free of charge from the start.
Trained and qualified Special Educators (certified by Rehabilitation Council of India) have been recruited to impart education. In the absence of a special schools like Darshan, these disadvantaged children, (who would not be able to follow a curriculum in a ‘normal’ government school) would grow up as – “deaf and mute”. Upon admission to Darshan, each child is immediately tested for audio impairment. After special ear moulds are made for each ear, courtesy the Starkey Foundation’s specialists, they are fitted with hearing-aids by their audiologists. The present cost of each hearing aid in the market is approximately Rs 30,000/-. Enabled to hear sound, often for the first time, the special educators must laboriously teach the children to decipher sound. As a child can take some time to get used to hearing aids, this can be a painstaking process both for teachers, parents and the child. It can take many weeks and months to teach them basic phonetics. Periodical checks on audiometrics are necessary and conducted. They are gradually groomed into languages, Hindi and English, and Math. Darshan’s ultimate objective is to enable as many of these children as possible to join mainstream schools.
Initially our students were recruited in open drives in the city, which were conducted at different locations of Jaipur. Parents began to bring in their children, the word of mouth method worked too. We did not advertise. Gradually, more and more parents and guardians reached out to the Director and its staff. Darshan invariably encouraged parents or guardians to accompany the children especially in the junior classes. This helped considerably in settling the child into the school environment. Parent teacher meeting are conducted every 4-6 weeks. Parents are counseled in every case.
A classroom technique, ‘one student one teacher,’ conducted with each child for a few hours each week (often with the help of parents), has been marked a success. Different methods are used to teach the children to speak as much as possible and wean them away from sign language, which the parents and siblings tend to use at home.
Play groups have helped the children develop both physical and mental capabilities. This technique also helps teachers to understand the degree of progress in hearing impairment or even whether the hearing aids need to be changed. The playgroup slowly develops into more academic learning, with emphasis on speech therapy to develop the ability of the students in pronouncing different alphabets and words.
A constant problem for the school lies in the fact that for economic reasons not all parents, especially those living away from Jaipur in other towns and cities, are able to sustain maintaining their children to stay back in Jaipur and continue with the education, despite everything being free of cost for the children.
Inspite of these myriad difficulties, the School has continued to grow and attendance percentages have been maintained at a high level. For the year 2018-19 the number of children stood at 86 and the average attendance percentage was 81%. Presently, year ending 2019 has seen 92 children students in 10 classes (From playgroup to the IX std). Recognition by the Educational Department of the Government of Rajasthan followed after a personal visit by Chief Secretary Mr. DB Gupta and Principal Secretary Education.
- Mid -day meal: From the start, different benefactors were approached to donate funds in order to provide a mid-day meal and supplements to the children. This continued until 2013. From 2013 onwards Darshan began to avail of the mid-day meal provided by Akshay Patra, the famed award-winning NGO that supply hot mid-day meals to over 18 lakh school children from poor communities enrolled in government schools and selected NGOs all over the country. Darshan has further supplemented this diet with milk, fruits and other supplements. From 2014, The Manipal Education and Medical Group Foundation provided funds for meals, uniforms, class books and bags. From 2016, the TATA Trust who supported Darshan with their project Non-Formal Education and Vocational Training of Hearing-Impaired Children and Youth, contributed very significantly to provision of specialist teachers.
- Free Transportation is critical: Over a period of time, Darshan’s experiences repeatedly have shown that if transportation was not provided to pick up and drop children from their homes, the parents are unable or unwilling to send their children to school. The Trust realized early on that most parents are marginal wage earners, many are daily labourers or small footpath traders. If this work had to be undertaken, the Trustees therefore had no alternative but to provide free (and safe) transportation. This was organized by hiring dedicated public scooters, especially for the smaller children, to pick up and drop the children, accompanied by an adult, from and to seven dedicated points in the city and in the Jaipur rural areas. On the recommendation of the TATA Trustees on the Board, Darshan upgraded its transport arrangements by phasing out the three-wheeler scooters and introducing nine Tata Magic and other similar Vans, which the Trustees rightly hoped are a safer method of travel for the children.
- Recreational/Extra-curricular activities in Darshan School: Saturday is a day for recreation, when indoor and outdoor games are conducted. The children are encouraged to participate in environment lessons as well as identify the names of trees and flowers in the grounds. They have each planted a tree and are taught to nurture them. The older children are encouraged to grow vegetables, to be added to their daily meal, both to provide the children with an added nutrient as well as encourage them to grow their own vegetables. A number of fruit trees have been planted in the grounds. Darshan children are taught to dance, draw, reuse waste material, road discipline, health awareness and conservation, ecological awareness and preservation. All religious festivals are observed. The children pursue sports activity both to improve their physical skills as well as develop team spirit and camaraderie. Trustee Mrinalini Chawla is developing arts and craft workshops with the students in July 2018. Yoga is a part of the daily curricular.
Educational tours/visits are also undertaken as a part of the curriculum. Children have been taken to the zoo and picnics in the winter months. In 2019, the children visited the Daryavati River Project undertaken by TATA projects to learn more about construction and environmental development. The Rotary Club and Darshan have jointly participated in drawing and quiz competitions. On world Disability day (3rd December 2019), 30 students and staff met the Chief Minister, Shri Ashok Gehlot, at his residence on 2nd December 2019, 19 younger children enjoyed a Christmas festival organized by Begum Fauzid Ahmed Khan at her Montessori School at Loharu House, Jaipur.
- Summer Training for HI Youth in Computers: For several years, Darshan has conducted special Summer Training programmes for profoundly hearing impaired youth which began with a crash course in computer basics during the summer months of -12th May to l2th July 2007 for students drawn from the school run by Anandi Lal Poddar Trust, a residential Rajasthan government-aided school for hearing impaired children. This 2 month course conducted for this segment of youth during the course of their summer vacations was held for several years thereafter. The Institute provided 2 hour for advanced learning modules. The numbers of youth trained were 18 (2008), 11 each (2009 and 2010), 12 (2011), 20 (2012), 28 students (2013). From 2014 the summer training camp was discontinued for paucity of students. These students received certificates from a private college CompuCom in Jaipur.
From 2014, Darshan, encouraged by then Chief Secretary to Rajasthan Mr. C.K Mathew introduced the Rajasthan State Certificate course in Information Technology, (RSCIT) a Govt approved and certified course. Darshan was registered as a learning center for this course, and began to enroll, teach and complete. Till the end of 2019, as many as 38 students received training and certification awarded by the Rajasthan Knowledge Corporation Limited (RKCL). Certification is now provided exclusively through RKCL. Several of the students trained at Darshan have found employment including in leading hotels of Jaipur; 4 by the Jai Mahal Palace Hotel, 2 at the Rambagh Palace Hotel and, 2 by the Rambagh Hotel’s SMS Convention Centre, thanks to the Founder’s personal interventions.