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 counselled 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.