Felicitation of Special Educators

Venue : Indian Agricultural Institute, Queen's Road
Time : 10 a.m to 1 p.m.
Members present : 50-70 Special educators

Mr. Raja gave the welcome speech by welcoming all the special educators. He stressed on the importance of their role in the society and appreciated their attempts and achievements to educate the special children. He also mentioned that this was only an attempt to recognise all the special educators who were neglected.

Dr. Ali addressed the gathering and welcomed all the special educators on the Special day (Teacher's Day) and felt it was ideal to felicitate the educators on this particular day. He went on recollect one of his experiences where he attended a gathering with a friend, which included many VIPs and important people. When the time came to welcome the guests the children (aged 16-18 years) were told to bring flowers on to the stage to be presented to the VIPs. But the children holding the flowers refused to come up the dais, some came up to the stage but ran back to their teachers and gave them the flowers. This became an embarrassing situation. But fortunately the people present there understood that the children were doing so because they were children with 'special needs'.

Dr. Ali also remembers his childhood days, when they had teased these kind of children because they were not aware of the difficulties that these children faced. No one had enlightened them about the disabled children.

Before a few years the disabled children had no future because no one were aware of such a problem in children. These kind of children were not given opportunities to come forward or show their abilities. Today things are different, people have come forward and even dedicated their lives to understand and serve the children with special needs. On this day the felicitation organised for the special educators is only a form of recognition for their efforts made, and this cannot be measured or compared with another person.

As the Banjara Academy does not believe in comparisons, this ceremony was to show gratitude and acknowledge the work and thank the educators for spreading the message and also for building up a future for the special child.

Dr. Ali went on to say that "Inclusion" is the new Mantra, and the special educator not only includes the people qualified to carry out the work but also those who have been drawn to this field because of their interest in children and their development.

The salutations were given to the following Special Educators
  1. Mr. Balaraj & Ms. Josephine Teresa Balaraj: Mr. Balaraj's turning point in life was when his first grand son Rahul Immanual born and diagnosed as a special child in the year 2000. They started with his rehabilitation, with initial training from Spastic Society of Karnataka and later with other institutions. This is when Balaraj came across several families struggling with disabled children for guidance and support leading to the establishment of Balajothi Centre for the Disabled in 2004. Rahul Immanual led Ms.Josephine to start Balajothi Centre for the Disabled which is providing guidance and support for families with special children. Over 30 children are cared for and provided therapy and rehabilitation by Josephine on a daily basis there. Mr. Balaraj thanked Banjara Academy and everyone present for recognising their work. He said that patience and compassion are two virtues that special children need and they are the qualities that a true educator should possess. He also mentioned that his grandson Rahul was an inspiration to start Balajothi and it is like a big family which never stops growing.
  2. Mr. Benjamin & Ms. Elizabeth: Mr. Benjamin started in this field with Sophia Opportunity School and then moved on to establishing his own centre for the mentally challenged. His primary focus is on the Sports movement for Special children. Mr. Benjamin involves himself in enabling these children to participate in various Olympics. Ms. Elizabeth's love for special children and passion to care for them is what made her a teacher for the special ones. She has been in this field for more than 25 years. Both Mr and Mrs. Benjamin run a home for the mentally challenged, leading various programs for their total development. Mr. Benjamin said that special people need special motivation and an educator should be a good friend and a guide to the children. He also went on to say how he with the help of Sr. Joel he started the home for mentally challenged children.
  3. Ms. Dechamma Prabhu: Yeshwanth was Dechamma's neighbour's child, whom she tried to understand and reach out to which led her into educating special children and she has never looked back. She loves what she is doing and likes being with children with special needs. She is currently with the BEL special School as Principal.  Ms. Dechamma Prabhu told how she started her work with Sophia's school and went on to be come the principal of BEL Special School.
  4. Ms. Kalpana Prakash (was not present) : is currently the Chief Co-ordinator at the Karnataka Parents' Association for Mentally Retarded Citizens (KPMRC), Jayanagar. The Institute offers two year Diploma in Special Education for Mental Retardation (DSE-MR).
  5. Ms. Keerthivathi: Ms. Keerthivathi, the headmistress of Bala Mano Vikas Kendra, a School for the mentally challenged has been working as a special educator for over 30 years serving children with all degrees of retardation and extremities of behavioral problems. She recounts that her day-to-day contact and involvement with such children is serving as practical training and research by itself. This has led her to introduce new teaching and evaluation techniques in special education.  Ms. Keerthivathi explained the difficulties of being a female educator and how she even thought of quiting the field. But one day when she got down from the auto-rickshaw and walked towards the school she saw many children comomg towards her to welcome her. She said that looking at there happy faces and the hugs she received, she realised that it would have been a great mistake if she had resigned from the job. She also thanked her parents and husband for being understanding and supportive. She also had a small advise for the special educators, she said that it is important to understand the children and their parents too. For this the educator should be aware of the activities of the child not only in school but outside the campus also. A lot of space should be given for their development and if the family is happy, the child will also be happy.

Dr. Ali mentioned how the word 'Disabled' has been changed to 'Differently-abled'. He explained that every person has an ability. He also said that everything depends on the way a person thinks and one has to think out of the box. A power point presentation was made about a Beggar Boy: There was a Beggar Boy who was blind. He sat down to beg on the road side with the sign written on a board that read 'please help me, I am blind'. People gave him some alms occasionally, but many did not notice the boy or the board. A man passing by saw this, he went towards the board and erased the writing on it, he rewrote something else. The boy had a good sense of hearing had realised that the message on the board was been changed. Now the boy found many alms falling into his plate. At the end of the day the same man who changed the message on the board returned to see the result of his act. Realising that it was the same man the boy asked him what he had written on the board. Here Dr. Ali stopped the story and asked audience as to what was written on the board. One educator answered the man had written ' The day is so beautiful today and I cannot see it'. Now the message conveyed by the boy and the man is the same, but it had different results. The second message had an impact on people. So thinking out of the box always has a better result.

Ms. Krishnakumari Menon : Ms. Krishnakumari Menon is currently with FAME India, and has been in the field of special education for over two decades. She is actively involved in "Train the Trainer" programs of KPAMRC. The acceptance needed to understand intellectually challenged children comes easily to her. She is the mother of an intellectually challenged child herself and was probably the main reason for her getting into the field of special education. She says her greatest strength has been the unconditional support that she has received from her family in all her endeavors.

Ms. Krishnakumari Menon was accompanied by her daughter Ms. Anitha Menon who is 30 years of age and is intellectually challenged. Ms. Krishnahumari went on to say that her daughter was her inspiration and she learnt to smile from her daughter. Felicitation was also presented to Ms. Anitha who received it with a big smile. Ms. Krishnakumari went on to say that her daughter had taught her how to be humble and to accept thing the way they are.

Ms. Manjula : Ms. Manjula started her career in 1980, working as a Special Educator with Shiela Kotawala Institute for the Deaf, having put in three decades of committed service, and has pioneered the education of younger children who need to begin their education and get into mainstream life.

Ms. Manjula said that deafness was the most difficult disability and teaching children with hearing disability required greater amount of patience. These children have to be thought in a totally different manner. She was also proud to mention that many of her children were employed in public sectors and various other fields.

Dr. Ali said that he knew a friend who was at a top post in the police force in Maharastra. Once this friend was posted for duty in a remote area for a Jatra. He fell sick and had high fever, as there were no medical facilities available he had to wait for 3-4 days without any medical help. By this time the fever had affected the brain and the nerves system. It resulted in his hearing loss. It went on to the stage where his hearing disability was threatening his job. At this time his father Col. Dsouza approached the President and requested him to transfer his son to another department. The Plea was accepted and he was transfered to the computer section. He was the first person to computerize the complete police records. He later got a cochlear implant and has now acquired 80% of his hearing back.

Dr. Ali also narrated another incident where an elderly rich man who was deaf, later got his hearing ability back with the help of a Doctor. When he came for a check up after a month of surgery the Doctor asked him "Are you very happy to get back your hearing ability? I am sure even your family members are very delighted about this." the old man said " I am very happy that I can hear again, but I don't think that my family members are happy about this. I should also tell you that I have already changed my Will twice last week."

Ms. Manjushree Ghosh: Ms. Manjushree Ghosh is a Special Educator for the speech and hearing impaired, mentally challenged and multiple disabled children. She is qualified in special education for the hearing impaired and mentally challenged, she is the founder of Dr. B.C. Roy Vidyatan for Handicapped and has an experience of 28 years in the disability field as special educator.

Ms. Manjushree Ghosh thanked Banjara Academy for the recognition given for her work and also mentioned about the parents of the children who were very co-operative.

Dr. Ali narrated an incident that took place at the Good Sheperd Auditotium where a Music program was in progress. Dr. Ali was given 3 minutes in the break time to talk about epilepsy. He put across a question "A deaf and Dumb person went to a shop and asked for a toothbrush by making actions and the shopkeeper understood what he was asking for, he gave a toothbrush. Now that person again in action asked for the price, the shopkeeper also made actions informing him about the price and the person got to know the amount, paid the price. Now another person who is blind goes to the shop and asks for a toothbrush. Can anyone tell me how he asked the shopkeeper for the toothbrush?" after the question the crowd was quite for about 30 seconds then a small girls about 8 years stood up and said " The man could speak, so he asked the shopkeeper the toothbrush."

Ms. Maya Muddaiya: Ms. Maya Muddaiya had her call to work with children with special needs in 1983, leading her to get a Diploma in Special Education and undergo a training program comprising of lectures and visits to disability centres and special schools in UK. She worked relentlessly with children with cerebral palsy for several years and led the National Centre for Cerebral Palsy as Principal. She has taught children with varied challenges, helped children with dyslexia and other forms of learning Difficulties, currently she is involved in behaviour modification programs, counselling and guiding students and parents in life skills management after school, in addition to preparing curriculum and teaching special children.

Ms. Maya thanked Banjara Academy and the audience. She also mentioned that this was a team effort and it was possible with the co-operation of many people involved in the activity.

Another presentation on power point was made on the topic 'Crackpot'. Dr. Ali said that he decided to do this after a boy told that his teacher called him a Crackpot. This is a Chinese wisdom story. A lady carried two pots of water from the river to her house very day and it was a long walk for her. One of the pots was perfect and the other had a crack and water leaked from that crack. Whenever she carried water she would take home a pot full of water and another half filled with water. The perfect pot was very happy and proud about his work, the crackpot was ashamed as he would carry only half pot of water. This went on for two year. Finally the crackpot told the lady "The perfect pot carries full of water and I reach home with only half pot of water, I feel really ashamed". Listing to this the old lady replied " Dear pot, do you see the flowers on your side of the path. Well I knew your flaw and I planted the seeds on your side, so whenever you carried the water, drops of water fell on them and now thanks to you I enjoy the flowers and they decorate my table everyday for the last two years. So you should be proud of yourself that you have help me enjoy the flowers because you are a crackpot."

Dr.Meena K Jain : Dr. Meena has lived and worked with slum, tribal, village children; children of labourers, prostitutes; children with AIDS, Cancer, HIV, Mental and physical challenges; abused, trafficked, orphaned, distressed, Tsunami affected children and children from many other vulnerable sections of our society. Dr. Jain has acquired various qualifications in the fields of Rehabilitation science, Psychology, Sociology, Women Studies, Professional Counselling, Psychotherapy, Child Behaviour, Life Skills and Human Behaviour. She has authored and published many books, manuals, handbooks, presented papers and conducts workshops and trainings related to Mental Retardation, Autism, Learning Disability, Early Stimulation, Trauma Care Management and Counselling.

Dr.Meena talked about her experience and about helping children. She also recited a Shayari

Zindagi Har Kadham ek nayee Jung hai.

Zindagi Har Kadham ek nayee Jung hai.

Jeeth Jayenge Hum Agar Tum Sath do.

Ms. Pankaja : Ms. Pankaja was in the first batch of the PG course in Speech and Hearing at the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore. She has been a teacher at the Sophia School since 1973 and has worked all along with children who need help with speech.

Ms. Pankaja told that one should know how to connect with the child and every single child will have to be taught in a different way. So understanding them needs a lot of patience.

Ms. Pramela Morton : Ms. Pramela, parent of a child with severe intellectual challenges, involved herself with Marthoma Opportunity School and also has been with KPAMRC as a coordinator for Special education training programmes.

Ms. Pramela spoke to the audience and said that her daughter was her inspiration to carry out the work. She also narrated a story of a Star Fish : The starfish are swept to the sea shore and washed back into the sea, some fail to go back to the sea and are left on the shore. These tend to die due to dehydration. This went on for many days on a shore. One day a man walking on the beach saw this and decided to do something about the dying starfishes. He began to take the starfishes left out on the sea shore and throw them back into the sea, an old man was observing this for a long time. He came up to this man and said " Why are you doing this, I have seen many starfishes that are washed up to the shore and this is a every day process. What difference will it make if you just pick up a few and throw them back into the sea?" The man listening to this bend down picked up a star fish and threw it back into the water and pointed at it "I don't know about others, but see I made a difference in the life of that one starfish". And that can make a lot of difference.

Ms. Pramila Verghese : A passion to help reach out to special children is what drove her to this field. She was from the first batch of students who were trained by Fr. Arthur John Malin to assess and understand these children's IQ using a test that was specially designed for Indian Children. She was the principal of BEL Special School until her retirement. She continues to be associated with the school supporting their effort to train adult girls who have special needs with basic life skills.

Ms.Pramila started by saying about two children Ranjan and Neelema. Both these children suffered from autism and were Ms. Pramila's neighbours. As a young girl she showed interest in these children and wanted to spend time with them. Neelema was always behind closed doors. No one were allowed to go to her, her parents were worried that she would bite others or hurt them. Hence she did not learn anything. But Ranjan's parents allowed Pramila to talk to him. He eventually learnt to speak, pronounce words etc. Ms. Pramela had decided to enter the field on mental health but could not do so as her parents refused to this. Hence she took the help of Fr. Arthur John Malin who believed that the people who do not help others and in particular people who have disabilities will be punished twice. Ms. Pramela says that she is now helping young girls in the age group of 18-30 years. They are desparately trying to find answers to questions like " why am I not married like my brother or sister? Why do my parents save money only for my sister's marriage?" There are even parents who ask " After us who will take of our child? What will happen to our child if we die?"



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