| FORWARD MARCH: Students at Anubhav are given an academic education, therapy and counselling
Razia Parveen is deaf and mute. She can’t hear the sound of music, but loves to dance. She has performed in several public shows and won numerous competitions. Her secret is painstakingly counting every step. The 21-year-old commutes from home in Thakurpukur to school in Kidderpore. The teachers at Anubhab have not only taught her to read and write, but also to discover her talent in Indian classical dance.
Says Anindita Banerjee, secretary of Anubhab: “Her parents had given Razia up as a lost cause. Her father is a fishmonger in Thakurpukur bazaar. They didn’t know that a girl with her disabilities could not only function normally, but also achieve great things. The problem is that because her mother is always ill, Razia has to do the housework and look after all her younger brothers and sisters. That doesn’t leave her with much time for dance practice. Also, she can’t make it to school everyday either. Her parents are supportive, but when you have to worry about your next meal, then other issues take a back seat.”
Razia is just one of the students that Anubhab is trying to help get a better life. Another is Bapi Routh, 16. He’s deaf, too, but a budding mime artist. Through actions, he tries to get across his hitherto unexpressed thoughts and emotions to the outside world. He, too, has enthralled many an audience with his skill. “It comes from within,” explains Banerjee. Bapi, like some of the others, can talk a little, but is more comfortable being silent. Anubhab, however, has applied for hearing aids for each deaf child.
There are 30 such students, three to 26 years old, with mental and physical disabilities, enrolled at Anubhab. From 12 noon to 4 pm, in a borrowed two-room space, the children are not just given an academic education, but also speech therapy, psychological counselling, cultural classes like dance, and vocational training in jute handicrafts and greeting cards.
They are given free rein to explore their artistic talents, and the things they make are often sold to raise funds for the school. Besides this, they are also encouraged and prepared to participate in the Special Olympics.
“We held a survey in this area, in which we found that most people think being disabled is the end of the world. There’s nothing that can be done with a handicapped child. We want to change that perception. We held a parental guidance workshop with them and tried to explain our point of view. They have greatly changed their attitude since their children joined us. They can see the improvement,” says Banerjee.
While each handicapped child in school is provided with an individual curriculum and care, Anubhab has also started a project to educate Class I to IV students from the nearby slum area. The group is taught English, Bengali and maths. There was a free medical check-up organised by Anubhab for them recently, too. All the kids at Anubhab are given books and a meal.
There are a lot of projects in the pipeline, including an old people’s home, a disabled rehabilitation centre and a teacher training course. But funds are scarce. The annual function has not raised enough this year and the trustees are a worried lot. By and large, it’s friends and family who sponsor a child and give donations. “We have been given a piece of land in Purulia, but we have no money to start anything yet. Maybe soon. Hopefully,” concludes Banerjee.