Differently-abled children and teachers in front of the dilapidated building of the Nirmal Nava Jyoti School, Sandhikarka, Argakhanchi in this recent picture.
ARGHAKHACHI, April 5: They have various difficulties and disabilities: Some with talking, some with walking, and some with perceiving and so on. They need help for going anywhere, even to toilet. Without support, they cannot rescue themselves from an emergency situation. However, a school for mentally challenged kids like these in the district has been not able to cater to their needs. Nirmal Nava Jyoti School, a residential school at the district headquarters for mentally and physically challenged, not only lacks the resources necessary for providing the extra care and educating them but also has been housed in a fragile building.
“When it comes to a school for differently-abled or mentally challenged children, special infrastructures and resources are required. Let’s not expect all that. But at least, this school should have resources like desk and benches,” said Kamala Bhushal, the school’s principal. “We have been continuously appealing to concerned authorities for availing required resources. But none of them have so far responded.”
Separate schools for differently-abled children in districts outside the Kathmandu valley are rare. In lack of such schools, most kids like these never go to school. Their restricted mobility as well as lack of family support keeps such children away from school. Though Argakhanchi has one, it lacks even the most essential resources.
Bhushal says physical assets are not the only problem that these schools face. Teachers, specially trained for educating such children, are scarce. “The state has not been able to give due facilities to such children. Apart from other things it has not been able to provide teachers trained for educating children with special needs,” she maintained.
The school’s walls are full of cracks. The ceiling also looks very fragile. Walls and doors look like as if they are clinging to each other and would fall apart even with a small shudder. “The school’s building is in a dilapidated state. It’s very much unsafe to inhabit but still we don’t have options other than to use it. We are forced to have the children stay in there,” Bhushal lamented.
Rain sips through the ceiling when it rains drenching the children within. The building is not even capable of keeping the interior cool during summer. Unable to bear the heat some children even fall sick during summer. And in winter the school remains closed for many days. “In winter if the cold comes with rain, cold becomes unbearable in the wet room and forces us to call the classes off,” Bhushal informed Republica.
She informed that parents of the children are also growing very anxious over the situation. If the concerned department does not intervene or extends support to improve the situation, the school should be closed down. “We cannot continue like this any longer. We have to shut it down. If any untoward incident happens tomorrow, who would be responsible?” she questioned.
Each child enrolled in the school gets Rs 4,000 as monthly allowance for hostel and other charges. Water and sanitation facilities have also been provided by the district office. However, without new building constructed and necessary furniture and other resources managed, these children will remain deprived of the most basic children rights.
“Funds allocated to the school for each child is spent on their food and other essential needs. With the present funds it is impossible to even repair the existing building,” Bhushal said. “We need a new building that is safe and strong if we are to continue the residential facility for them,” she added.
The scribe talked with some of the school’s students. During these talks they shared that that they get scared during extreme weather conditions. When there is lightening or heavy downpour in the night, they cry out of fear, they said. Some said that they don’t like to stay at the school but added that they cannot quit the school since ‘their parents have left them there’.
Former president of the school’s management committee, Padam Bhushal expressed disappointment at the lack of interests exhibited by district’s education office and the department, despite several requests from the stakeholders. “The government spends billions of rupees in the name of education. But resources are not well distributed. A school like this one meant for differently-abled children deserved all the attention. But no one is really concerned about the fate of these children - neither their parents nor the government,” he remarked.
Despite all these shortcomings parents of the students are happy with the school. Dhankala Banjade, whose son is enrolled at the school, shared similar sentiments. She thanked the school for improving behavioral patterns of his mentally retarded son. “I had schooled him elsewhere earlier. But he would not talk well. After admitting him here, he showed improvements,” she said. “We are really happy with what the school has been doing for our children. But the school does not have proper building or rooms. It’s disheartening,” she added. The school has been educating over two dozen physically and mentally challenged children.