“The journey to build an inclusive society starts from an inclusive school” — Ashok Shah (Founder Samaaveshi Pathshaala)
How often do you see a classroom where students with & without a disability are learning together? Samaaveshi Pathshaala is working on such educational concepts. A small school set up in the tribal area called Kashele in Karjat, around 12 kilometres from the nearest station Neral, in Maharashtra, a couple from Assam is working on their dream project, where they believe that one day every school will be inclusive. In other words, every school in the future will help learn kids with & without disability together in the same classroom.
Nivedita and Ashok are alumni of TISS, Mumbai. While Nivedita has an MA in Disability Studies, Ashok pursued his MSW with a specialization in Health and Development.
On 25th April 2015, when an earthquake shook the Gurkha district of Barpak in Nepal, with a magnitude of 7.8 to 8.1, Nepal was broken in pieces. Ashok visited the affected area as a Field Communications Officer under CBM an international charity that works for the cause of disability worldwide with its headquarter at Germany. While visiting the affected area in Nepal he came across a temporary school where children were attending lessons in classrooms made up of tarpaulins. But when he moved ahead he saw a young girl who sustained spinal injuries during the earthquake and was sitting quietly on a wheelchair. When Ashok asked why she is not attending the school, the girl said that she was not allowed to attend that school. It’s not meant for disabled children like her, this moved Ashok so deeply that he decided to start an inclusive school where children with & without a disability can learn together. After many years of research and hard work today Ashok and his wife Nivedita runs samaaveshi pathshaala foundation at Kashele, a tribal district in Karjat, Maharashtra.
The Present Story
34% of children with disability in India are out of school. On reaching Samaaveshi Pathshaala, me & Ashok went straight into discussion. It was our first meet so we took some time to understand each other. But I soon realized one thing which Ashok mentioned that ‘if there is no separate earth for specially-abled children then why a separate school for them?’ As we were talking children from as far as 20kms were coming in one by one. Samaaveshi pathshaala foundation has started with kindergarten, so right now they have all very young students.
Nivedita, on the other hand, is a disability professional with over five years of working experience in disability rehabilitation and inclusive education. She worked with many international organizations for the cause of disability, both in India and Nepal.
So we were visiting samaaveshi pathshaala on a Friday and once all the children were in the school their curriculum started. And the first thing in the morning was to water the plants. After watering the plants it was time for some indoor exercise. And then the most cutest part, the rhyme & poetry.
Among all the activities some of them were specially designed for inclusive schooling, and Nivedita is constantly working for more such activities. The plan is to create a series of such activity for all grades of inclusive schooling.
Piyush is 8 years old and has a condition called ‘cerebral palsy’. It’s a neurological disorder that affects motor movements of the person. In case of Piyush, both his upper and lower limb movements are affected. However, he’s able to perform all major day to day activities with minimum or no support. For e.g. he can sit upright and hold a pencil to write just like other children in the classroom. Besides, he also has a mild speech impairment. Piyush has an identical twin whose name is Ayush, and has the same condition but in a bit more severe form. Ayush cannot sit upright or perform any of the day-to-day activities. At Samaaveshi Pathshaala, Ashok & his team is working with Piyush to improve the functional mobility of his hands specially the fingers and feet. Special educator gives regular speech therapy to Piyush.
In samaaveshi pathshaala I witnessed children with & without disability playing, learning & growing together. To bring up the best society, we need to work hard, and I believe the work has just started at the school level.
I truly have no words to express my feelings. All that we need now is time & support.
To support Samaaveshi PathShaala visit their website at www.samaaveshi.org