O P Sharma
A premier institution exclusively devoted to the well-being of the Divyangs is playing a pivotal role in imparting education to enable them to stand on their own with dignity. The attempt is to empower them through formal and vocational education as also training and rehabilitation.
In the context of the acute problem of physically challenged children, a novel idea struck Dr. R.R.Khajuria, a philanthropist, social activist and veterinarian who retired as MD, Jammu in Milk Supply Scheme to help these special children. He created a NGO by the name of J&K Samaj Kalyan Kendra (SKK) and launched an institution for imparting free education and skill training to gainfully rehabilitate these Differently Abled young boys and girls. It was his initiative supported by a team of dedicated social activists that much needed school exclusively for deaf and dumb students was launched. Starting from a rented two-room accommodation of Dharmarth Trust at Surajaya-di-Dakhi on May 22, 1980 it has grown in size and structure and is now located in a custodian’s building near Shaheedi Chowk. In stages, the school has been upgraded to Secondary School level since 1995 and Higher Secondary classes were started from session 2012-13.
First of its kind, it attracted the then First Lady Mrs.Mekhla Jha who became its patron. Begum Sheikh Abdullah came to open this school with only ten students.
Among the faculty is one dedicated person, Roshan Bhan who is still battling for the cause of this vulnerable section of society. Besides him as the Principal, it has a teaching faculty of eight, all fully trained in sign language.
With the growing demand, the institution, recognised by the Department of School Education as ‘School for Hearing Handicapped’ too expanded its activities. The depressing classrooms in the building were properly renovated at a cost of Rs 25 lakh, thanks to the magnanimous and out-of-the-way decision to renovate the building through R&B in 2016 of the then Chief Secretary, B R Sharma after his visit to the school.
Dr. R.R. Khajuria who started it as a saplings is now pleased to see it as a well grown up shady tree providing much needed shelter to over 110 deaf and dumb students, mostly coming from backward hilly areas and belonging to weaker sections of the region. With his poor health and advanced age, he is not involved in the school’s affairs even though he continues to be its Patron. The Management is carrying forward his mission with full sincerity and commitment and taking laudable initiatives.
The affairs of this institution are currently looked after by a Governing Body headed by a retired well known senior bureaucrat, K B Jandial. It has, current general secretary of Home for Aged Persons, Er. Vijay Bhagotra as Sr vice-president; M L Sharma, retd. high forest officer, as Vice-President; ex-Director, GSI, J K Vaid as general secretary, retired Audit Officer H N Raina as secretary and retired Dy. Registrar, M. D Sharma as treasurer. The current team has given a new spirit and dynamism to this institution for serving the cause of humanity in this part of the country.
The SKK fraternity has grown with membership going up to 103, sixty of them as Life Members who are well known former police and civil servants. Notable among them are Kuldeep Khoda, former CVC & DGP; Dr Ashok Bhan, former DGP; Dr Sudarshan Kumar, former DG, DRDO; P. P. Sharma, former PCCF; S. S Wazir, former ADGP; Prem Gupta & M A Anjum, both former IGPs; Inderjeet Khajuria, chairman, all Jammu Hotel & Lodges Association; retired Director GSI, B K Raina.
To carry forward Dr. Khajuria’s mission on firm footing and ensure holistic development of these Differently Abled children, it is essential to have its own residential school with proper class rooms, library, computer lab, Home Science laboratory, meeting halls, cultural activities centre, playground and hostel. The SKK was allotted land at Sidhra by the Jammu Development Authority in 1995 on full payment but could not give its possession due to encroachment. Alternate land was allotted in 2005 in Gole Gujral but actual possession of land has not been handed over to the SKK. And the overall growth and development of this special school is hampered. Will the present regime rise to the occasion and hand over the already identified alternate land to the school expeditiously?
The results of the School compare fairly well with any other educational institutions. The school’s BOSE examinations have been cent per cent for the last six years. Some of the Divyang girls and boys students are very talented in cultural and sports activities too.The school authorities told me that Persons with Disability (PWD) are otherwise very sharp and intelligent and do understand things thoroughly. Admittedly, much specialized and sustained efforts are needed to achieve the desired results. “We are impaired but more empowered to conquer every hurdle and achieve our goals in life”. This is what I found while interacting with these students at school.
It is noteworthy that deaf and dumb students have special problems which need to be tackled with patience in a skilful and specialized manner. There are audio hearing aids, sign language charts for such persons. The school has a SMART class and a team of qualified teachers trained in sign language. In addition to academic education, students are imparted training in computers, painting, cutting-tailoring and other skills to empower them for their livelihood and self-dignity.
The Principal of the school, Roshan Bhan spoke proudly of a particular Divyang student who secured good marks, with a job in hand, doing well in life. Some others too have shown excellence and serving the society. Recently, three alumni of the school have passed BCA and one of them, Vishali Raina is pursuing MCA while two others got posting in Finance Department. Recently, it honoured its two alumni who were selected in the Indian team for the World Deaf Judo Championship at France in October this year. One of them, Rakhshinda Mehak, bagged the bronze medal.
While the President, J&K Samaj Kalyan Society, K.B. Jandial regrets indifference of the affluent members of Jammu’s civil society and the corporate sector towards rehabilitation of these educated Divyang, he pinned hopes on LG administration in addressing the issue of alternate land to establish a residential school for these Differently Abled students. Jandial has a vision: “to raise the level of teaching with the help of latest technological gadgets, better coaching and counselling for excellence in both academic as well as in other sports like cricket, hockey, badminton, athletics in addition to Judo in which they had brought laurels to J&K. If the land is ‘allotted’, we would seek public support and contributions for best residential school for these speech and hearing impaired children so that they too can look forward to a bright future and be equal partners in socio-economic development of J&K as well as India. They are not less strong, intelligent and hard working their hearing and speech infirmities notwithstanding.”
J&K Samaj Kalyan Kendra, the well known voluntary social charitable Non Governmental Organization registered on 24th October, 1980 for uplift and empowerment of physically challenged children, particularly the hearing and speech handicapped boys and girls.
World Day for PwD
World Day of the Handicapped, also known as the International Day of Persons with Disability (IDPD) is observed on December, 3 and the theme for 2021 is: “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.”
It is needless to state that this organization (SKK) is doing well but it has still ‘miles to go and to perform much more’ for Divyang persons in this part of the country. While the Government must frame dynamic and forward looking new schemes and projects for this section of the society, active public support must forth-come for changing the destiny of the Divyangs.
O P Sharma