NAB Department of Education
The first special school for the blind in India was set up at Amritsar in 1887. During the subsequent six decades several special schools came up in different parts of the country. As a result, there were about 50 such schools at the time of attaining independence. Blind children for the most part stayed in these institutions and received education along with some elementary trades that later led them to some kind of vocational rehabilitation. However, not much was achieved through this system of education, in so far as their socio-economic rehabilitation was concerned. There were other concerns too – isolation from mainstream, standard of education and expensive nature of the system.
In 1958, Mrs. Rehmut Sultan Fazelbhoy, a trained teacher of the blind and a member of the Executive Council of NAB (India) was successful in admitting three blind boys in New Activity School in Mumbai, of which Mrs. Dolat Dungaji was the Principal. Such efforts, however, remained isolated to a few cases in the 60s and 70s. Thereafter, what started as an experiment in Mumbai gained rapid grounds in a decade’s time, and in the years that followed became a movement that spread in the other parts of the country.
In the intervening period, NAB (India) provided school and college going blind children support services in the form of scholarships, free distribution of braillers and other assistive devices, volunteer reading services and so on.
Realizing that a blind child too – like any other child – deserves education, NAB (India), set up its Education Committee 1961, which efficiently handled the general problems related to education of the blind and contributed a great deal to introduction of the Integrated Education (IE) system. This vital activity received impetus when NAB (India) appointed Mr. M. K. Choudhary as its first education officer in 1980, and subsequently established a full-fledged department – the NAB Department of Education – to handle this task.
Integrated Education (IE)
Partnering with local voluntary organizations – especially in the rural areas – the Department has so far initiated education of more than 5,000 visually challenged children through “Itinerant Teacher Model” of IE, wherein blind children reside with their families and attend the nearest regular schools. They receive the services of a special educator called itinerant teacher, who attends to the following tasks:
1. Teaching plus curriculum that is Braille, use of special arithmetic and geometric devices, orientation & mobility, activities of daily living and so on.
2. Preparing/procuring instructional materials like Braille/large print text-books, tactile maps, diagrams etc.
3. Family counseling.
4. Serving as a link between the child and the school authorities and providing guidance on classroom management, remedial teaching for subjects like math and science, peer tutoring and evaluation.
5. Community Resource Mobilization – arranging for readers, scribes, transcribers, private tutors, etc.
The Department presently supports 90 IE units, catering to 1,000 visually challenged children all over the country, with a budgetary outlay of about Rs.80 lakh. The cost of education of one blind child is Rs.8,000 per year.
Free distribution of Braille Kits
Every blind child irrespective of whether he/she is studying in special school or IE program must have access to a braille kit. A Braille kit contains basic educational devices needed by blind students for learning braille, arithmetic, geometry, etc. The cost of a Braille kit is Rs.1,000. The Department distributes about 500 braille kits every year to schools for the blind and IE implementing agencies in India, with an expenditure of about Rs.5,00,000. So far, over 15,000 braille kits have been distributed.
Free distribution of Braillers
Depending on availability of earmarked donations, braillers are distributed to institutions as well as to blind students pursing higher education. The cost of a brailler is Rs.35,000. So far, about 500 braillers have been given away.
Home-based program for Multi-Disabled Visually Impaired (MDVI) children
The additional disabilities MDVI children possess along with visual impairment are mental retardation, hearing impairment, autism, hyper activity, cerebral palsy etc. Itinerant teachers train these children in developmental areas like motor skills, communication, sensory skills, concept formation, activities of daily living, orientation and mobility, functional academics, pre-vocational skills, social skills, community-based instructions etc. Parents' meetings, picnics, outings, social gatherings, festival celebration, camps etc., are a regular feature in this program.
Human Resource Development Programs
Primarily aimed at community participation in IE Programs, the Department conducts short-term training programs for parents, volunteers and itinerant and regular teachers, throughout India. Integrated Camps are also organized at various locations to provide blind and sighted children the opportunity to come together and learn from each other. Similarly, special skills enrichment camps for visually challenged children are organized during vacations, to give them rigorous and intensive training in plus curriculum. The yearly expense on conducting these programs at various locations is around Rs.5 lakh.
Training Centre for Teachers of the Visually Handicapped (TCTVH)
Started in 2000, TCTVH offers two-year Diploma in Special Education (Visual Impairment), recognized by the Rehabilitation Council of India. The eligibility Criteria is Std.XII passed. Twenty-five candidates are admitted in each batch. Needy trainees are provided lodging and boarding facilities at a reasonable cost. We are proud to say, almost all the candidates who have so far passed out from TCTVH are either employed in Special Schools or Integrated/Inclusive Education Programs in the State of Maharashtra. TCTVH received a Certificate of Excellence from RCI in 2005.
Professional staff of the Department participates in various seminars, workshops, training programs etc., in consultative capacity. Many of them serve on important committees of the Government of India and other vital policy-making bodies.
Sale of Aids and Equipment
The Department stocks basic assistive devices used by the visually challenged in education, mobility, recreation etc. These items purchased from various manufacturers are made available to individuals and organizations, at cost. Devices worth Rs.40-50 lakh are sold each year.
There isn’t a single aspect concerning education of the blind that NAB (India) hasn’t touched. In fact, many of the prevailing practices in the fields of other disabilities have their origins in the ideas generated by NAB (India), in the sphere of education of the visually impaired. Our mission is to ensure that every blind or low vision child has access to formal education in an appropriate environment and is provided all the support services necessary for academic excellence and all round development.