My close friend Piyushbhai Dharaiya formed a charitable trust in the name of his wife Late Jyotsanaben and decided to donate the interest away, every year. I suggested him to visit Shivarimal School for Blind Children and experience the emotions of blind students. We finally visited this place on Sunday, February 16th, 2014 and the result is this introductory article.
Shivarimal is a village of Ahwa (Dangs) district situated on Bilimora-Saputara-Nasik road. This free school for blind and physically challenged students provides stay in a hostel, study up to XII standard with vocational training of different trades. Maheshbhai Kothari – an unmarried social worker – had started a school for "Deaf and Dumb" at Vijalpore, near Navsari in 1970. The famous Gujarati thinker and preacher - Morari Bapu asked Maheshbhai to do something similar for the poor Adivasis of Dang. The suggestion worked with a result of this School for Blind Children at Shivarimal of Ahwa-Dang, established in 2006. In this campus, girls stay/study in four domes prepared of fibre material and boys stay and study in a separate building with rooms. At present, there are 129 students (Boys and Girls are nearly same in numbers). They are looked after by 20 staff members.
Four types of disabled children stay here:
- Mentally retarded
- Deaf and dumb
- Multiple organs physically depilated ones
With this background let me get into the details of what I experienced and learned at Shivarimal.
How does a blind student learn?
Blind cannot see but can hear and speak. So, the teachers teach them by talking and giving lectures in classrooms.
2. Braille Books:
It is a language of dots written as projections on the thick paper, so the blind can feel by a touch of fingers and learn. In addition to books, newspapers, story-books, calendars and so many such materials are prepared in this fashion.
Tiny memory cards containing information on different subjects like History, Geography, Gujarati language etc. are installed in a small instrument with speakers and a student can do revisions of the subject by hearing the small tape-recorder-like instrument.
Let me jump straight to narrating my experiences interacting a few at Shivarimal.
1. Shri Arvind Shah (Shriji) – Trustee:
2. Shri Sureshbhai Bhoye – Principal:
He is a young person around 30, serving the school for more than a decade. He is a man of the same Ahwa region, serving his own people as the Principal. We have seen him serving the students with love, affection and empathy. An unsung hero worth praising, appreciating and awarding.
3. Jyoti Kukana – Student:
A 10-year-old child from the Dang district, Jyoti, is a student for last four years. She is happy staying here. Her father, from a nearby village, had come to meet her. We saw them exchanging emotions without words! She told her daily time-table; she gets up at 5 am and goes to bed at 10 pm. She told us the names of her close friends there and how she plays different games there.
4. Utakarsh Rakesh Patel – Student:
Here is a most senior inmate of the School for the blind, of around 22 years of age. He had a head injury 12 years back due to fall from a 55 feet high water-tank. His all other problems of head-injury could be treated – except the blindness. He comes from a well to do family; so washing his own clothes, cleaning his place in the hostel room and doing all his work himself are his problems, which are non-issues for all the other students from poor family status. Here, other inmates help him to solve this. His parents and aunts from Ancheli (near Bardoli, Gujarat) were visiting him that day. He is yet to start learning Braille language – a must for all blind. He had a special watch that tells time on touch.
When we reached there, they were playing cricket. They use a ball that has small balls making a sound on movement.
Principal and others had made an arrangement where a partially-blind one always accompanies a totally-blind to make a pair that can walk comfortably.
During our visit for nearly half a day, we had a meeting with them, had detailed talks and lunch together. We saw them being happy, joyous and enjoying the present life to its fullest. They had no complaints whatsoever… a great thing! And they had all hopes and ambitions of their future life. What else do we want?
And there is another blind-school too!
The Tata Agricultural And Rural Training School For The Blind at Tatawadi, Fanasa
(Via: Bhilad, Dist Valsad in Gujarat).
Males of 16 to 35 years of age of any state of India are admitted here for two years and given free training, stay, food, clothes and medical treatment. According to their intellectual level, they are trained in Agriculture, Nursery, Poultry, Animal husbandry, Gardening and Dairy technology. Later, they are guided in their rehabilitation in such a way that they can earn for themselves. They are also assisted financially.
If you are with me even now... I am the happiest man. Now, close your eyes for five minutes and move doing all your routine work. Experience the blindness for a while and desire to help them will be evoked spontaneously! I need not tell you about donations or other help.