Dilkhush Special School, Mumbai

EducationWorld September 04 | EducationWorld

Due to the commitment of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Society, Dilkhush, a complex of education institutions for the mentally challenged has survived for more than three decades despite numerous adversities

It is the second oldest school for special children in Mumbai. Located in an old style bungalow in Juhu, a western suburb of Mumbai, is the Dilkhush complex of education institutions which house a school for mentally challenged children, a teachers’ training centre, and a workshop run by and for mentally challenged adults by former students of the institution.

Despite a perennial funding crunch, government interference and difficulty in recruiting trained personnel, Dilkhush has survived for over 30 years due to the commitment and dedication of its promoters and managers — The Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Society.

Dilkhush comprises three institutions: the Dilkhush Special School for mentally and physically challenged children; the Dilkhush Teachers’ Training Centre which trains teaching aspirants to work with challenged children, and a Workshop, where mentally challenged teens who have graduated from Dilkhush learn and practice skills such as needlework, carpentry, cooking, painting cards and paper art. The best output of the workshop is marketed.

In sum Sacred Heart Society’s holistic vision for the development of mentally challenged children is beginning to pay off. Recently the J.W. Marriott Hotel hired five graduates of the institution. “This is a first-time breakthrough. We are confident it’s the beginning of a trend,” says Sister Noella Pereira, principal of Dilkhush.

The Dilkhush Special School admitted its first batch of 15 students in 1971 with the specific purpose of facilitating the comprehensive development of mentally challenged students. Currently the school has a capacity of 100 students aged between five and 14 years. Children are admitted on the basis of the availability of seats at each IQ level.

The school’s curriculum comprising functional academics and co-curricular activities aims to promote the all round development of each child and the development of self-care and social and pre-vocational skills. An individualised education plan (IEP) is drawn up for each child which is calibrated periodically during the year. This plan includes the teaching of subjects such as oral language, reading, writing, maths, time and money management and general knowledge.

“These subjects are taught only if they have functional value for the child, which means that the theoretical knowledge gained should be of practical use. The curriculum also includes acquisition of pre-vocational skills, which the child will need either for use in the Dilkhush workshop and/ or in post-school workplaces,” says Sr. Pereira.

To this end each class at Dilkhush is run by a qualified special educator (minimum qualification: a diploma in special education recognised by the Rehabili-tation Council of India). The school is divided into 11 classes, focussing on need-based academic, vocational and self-help skills. “These classes are not organised along the lines of a regular school for normal children. There is no pressure on students and each child is encouraged to develop varied skills at her own pace according to her IEP,” says Sr. Pereira.

Dilkhush is partially funded by the government, which pays the salaries of three of its teachers. The rest of the money needed to meet the society’s annual expenditure budget is collected through donations and contributions from private individuals and other institutions.

The Dilkhush Teachers’ Training Centre was also established in 1971 to train people interested in teaching challenged or special children. Since then the centre has acquired a national reputation for the quality and relevance of its teacher training courses. A number of students trained in the centre have become eminent leaders in the field of special education, both nationally and internationally. “Currently there are 32 trainees in the centre against our capacity of 40. This is because it is very difficult to get motivated profession-als to qualify as special educators as they need to be people who are genuinely interested in working with the mentally challenged and have some experience in this field,” says Sr. Pereira.

The training centre’s two-year full-time diploma in special education — mental retardation (MR) and associated disabilities, is designed to train teachers to educate and rehabilitate children with mental handicaps, after assessment of diverse factors such as age, degree of severity, family and socio-economic background, and cultural factors. The focus of this study programme is to train teachers to teach children of school-going age, needing special education and/ or pre-vocational training.

Dilkhush’s other study programmes are short-term courses targeting professionals working with challenged children; parents and volunteers, and auxiliary staff and caretakers.

Programmes and fees

Diploma in Special Education. This is Dilkhush’s flagship course and is a two-year full-time course aimed at training teachers to rehabilitate mentally challenged persons.

Fee. Rs.25,000 for two years.

Eligibility. Plus Two

Continuing Rehabilitation Education Programmes. Dilkhush periodically organises these programmes for in-service special educators, to assist them in updating their skills and knowledge.

Fee. Nil (subsidised by state government)

Eligibility. Plus Two

Introduction to Special Education Course. This course is designed to inform and enhance the practical skills of parents and volunteers working with special children. Started in 2002 the course is open to anyone interested in deepening her knowledge of special children.

Fee. Rs.1,000 over three to five days

Eligibility: Plus Two

The Parent Support Group Leaders Course. This builds on the design of the course on Introduction to Special Education and is a follow-up to the special education programme.

Fee. Nil (subsidised by the government)

Eligibility: Plus Two

The Workshop. This is a self-financing unit within Dilkhush. It employs mentally challenged persons between the ages of 18-48 years who are graduates of the Dilkhush Special School.

The students make designer envelopes, woodcraft items, beaded necklaces, quilts, embroidered napkins, and fruits squashes and jams. Students are paid stipends ranging from Rs.300-1,600 per month.

Most of these items are sold in public sales held twice a year, in April and December.

For further information contact the principal, Dilkhush Special School and Dilkhush Teachers’ Training Centre, Juhu Road, Opposite Palmgrove Hotel, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Ph: 022 261 513 04; Fax: 022 261 886 88; e-mail: [email protected]

Mona Barbhaya (Mumbai)

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