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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 led them to some kind of vocational rehabilitation, later. However, not much could be 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 (I) 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 a variety of support services in the form of scholarships, free distribution of braillers and other assistive devices, voluntary readers' service and so on.
Realizing the fact that a blind child too – like any other child – deserves education, NAB (I), to deal with this issue, set up a committee in 1961. The committee efficiently handled general problems related to education of the blind and contributed a great deal to introduction of the Integrated Education system. However, this vital activity received impetus when NAB (I) decided to appoint Mr. M. K. Choudhary as its first education officer in 1980, and subsequently established a full-fledged department NAB Department of Education to handle this task.
Integrated Education (IE)
NAB Dept. of Education is a pioneer in promoting IE programs for visually impaired (VI) children all over India by partnering with local voluntary organizations - especially in the rural areas. It has so far initiated education of more than 5000 VI children. The model favored by the Dept. is called the “Itinerant Teacher Model” of IE, wherein blind children reside with their families and attend the nearest regular schools along with their sighted counterparts. They receive the services of a special teacher called itinerant teacher who attends to the following tasks:
Presently the Dept. supports about 125 IE units catering to more than 1000 VI children all over the country, with a budgetary outlay of about Rs.50 lakh. The cost of education of one blind child is Rs.5000 per year.
All India Scholarship Program
The Dept. offers annual scholarship of Rs.500 to VI students studying under IE Programs all over India, for academic purposes. In addition, annual financial assistance of Rs.1,000 per student is given to VI students studying in Std. XI and XII in the City of Mumbai and its outskirts. The annual budgetary allocation for this program catering to about 650 children is about Rs.3,50,000.
All India Sponsorship Program
Sponsorship assistance of Rs.1,000 is given to needy students under IE programs, to fulfill their personal needs like school uniform, stationery, footwear, tuition fees, etc. This is one way of luring poor parents to send their children to school. The annual expenditure on this program catering to about 400 children is Rs.4,00,000.
Free distribution of Braille Kits
A Braille kit contains basic educational devices needed by blind students for learning braille, arithmetic, geometry, etc. Every blind child irrespective of whether he/she is studying in special school or IE program must have access to a braille kit. The Dept. distributes about 500 braille kits every year to schools for the blind and IE implementing agencies in India, with an expenditure of about Rs.3,75,000. The cost of a Braille kit is Rs.900. So far, over 12,000 braille kits have been distributed.
Free distribution of Braillers
Depending on the 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.10,000. So far, about 500 braillers have been distributed.
Home-based program for Multi-Disabled Visually Impaired (MDVI) children
This first of a kind program was set up in the year 1995, in Mumbai and its adjoining areas. Within a short period, the Dept. replicated similar programs in different parts of the country with the help of local NGOs. The program in Mumbai caters to over 100 MDVI children. The annual expenditure on this program is about Rs.7 lakh. Home-based services are offered by centers located at four different places in and around Mumbai.
The National Program for MDVI children caters to about 65 children, with an annual expenditure of about Rs.5 lakh.
The additional disabilities MDVI children possess along with visual impairment are mental retardation, hearing impairment, autism, hyper activity, cerebral palsy, etc. These children receive training through itinerant teachers 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, birthday get-togethers, festival celebration, camps, etc. are a regular feature in this program.