Kashmir's oldest school for special children in shambles

Greater Kashmir

Floods cause massive damage to Abhinanda Home

Srinagar, Nov 11: Kashmir’s oldest school for deaf, dumb and blind students-Abhinanda Home- here is craving for official attention in the aftermath of the damage caused to the institution in the recent floods.
The preliminary assessment by the school management has pegged the losses suffered at Rs 30 lakhs.
Located on the roadside in Srinagar’s Rambagh area, the Abhinanda Home has two buildings and a spacious lawn. It has classrooms with speech teaching room for deaf and dumb and Braille instructor room for blind children.
School officials rue the official apathy as they allege that government has failed to pay any attention towards the institute which has led to its downfall. “Nobody from the government has visited the institution post floods to assess the situation,” they said.
Established in 1941, the institute has been imparting education to specially-abled children for decades now. Currently 110 special children are enrolled in the institution with only 5 teachers to teach them.
“Pre-1990s more than 1000 special children were enrolled in the institution. The school was managed by Kashmiri Pandits who left Kashmir after eruption of turmoil as a result of which this institution was orphaned. Subsequently donations also dried up which led to downfall of this prestigious institution,” a school insider said.
As per the school management, lack of financial support from government is the biggest impediment in running day to day affairs at the institution.
“The official apathy towards the school can be gauged by the fact that more than four kanals of land owned by Abhinanda Home is under the occupation of security forces but state government has failed to free it,” he said.
The Abhinanda Home is run by Society for Human Welfare and Education, an NGO. However as per insiders the management of the society over the years has failed to pay any attention towards the institution.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Principal, Arshida Sidique said: “Abhinanda Home is passing through tough times and the recent flood has caused immense damage to equipment and property.”
“Despite being the oldest school for physically disabled kids in Kashmir, the government has failed to pay any attention to improve conditions here,” she said, adding that apart from meager grant-in-aid provided by the Social Welfare Department there is no financial support to run the institution.
The institute provides education free of charges to deaf kids from Nursery to 10th standard, in sign language, lip movements and speech therapy. “We have five expert teachers to teach the enrolled deaf and dumb students. All these teachers are diploma holders in special education,” the Principal said.
Sidique appealed the state government and NGOs to provide financial assistance to the institution. “There is a dire need of likeminded people and NGOs to come forward and help the institution to serve these disabled kids in order to make them fit for challenges in life ahead. These kids are part of our society and we cannot ask them to pay money for teaching, it is the responsibility of society as a whole to help them.”
In-charge, Abhinanda Home, Mushtaq Ahmad said: “The school has suffered extensive damages due to floods. Equipments and hearing aids used to train these kids have been damaged,” he said.
Ahmad said that nobody from the government bothered to visit the institution.
“It is astonishing that we have not received any help from the government post floods. Only Goonj, an NGO, has been kind enough to provide food supply to feed students who are staying in hostel,” he said.
Ahmad said: “We have submitted a proposal to state government urging them to provide liberal grant-in-aid to run this institution. We would like to introduce skill development courses for kids in future in order to make them employable,” he said.