Hyderabad: Amid a handful of special schools in Telangana, the Akshara Special School for the speech and hearing-impaired in Mahabubnagar, a brainchild of district Collector Ronald Rose and District Rural Development Officer Kranthi Valluru, has made a name for itself for being the first school in the State where speech and hearing-impaired students are taught by speech and hearing-impaired teachers.
Launched in April this year, the school currently has a strength of over 20 students in the age group of 5-18 years with hearing impairment ranging from 40 to 100 per cent. The school is operating in collaboration with Red Cross and the Noida Deaf Society, a leading institution that trains and educates hearing-impaired children. While NDS provides expertise and trainers to run the school, Red Cross supplies training material.
Keerthana Bezawada, one of the trainers at Akshara, says: “Initially many students in the school were not aware of sign language and could not communicate. But with the help of training and seminars, the students started readily engaging in conversations.”
No sign language
Most schools for the hearing-impaired across the country do not use sign language to teach hearing-impaired children. Moreover, sign language is surprisingly not a compulsory course of B. Ed. Special Education in Telangana and there are only 16 active ISL interpreters in the State, according to Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC).
“Special needs children put up with a lot when they attend mainstream schools as they can’t cope with regular established languages taught there. Indian sign language is something they can use anywhere in the country. Initially, it was tough to convince parents since they believed that only speech therapy can make their children regain their speech. But now most parents have realized sign language is like any other language and is not out of the ordinary,” says Ronald Rose.
The school collects Rs 500 per month from each student and also provides transport facility to students who come from nearby districts. Additionally, a training session in sign language is conducted for parents.
“From the very start, it was decided that the school will have hearing-impaired teachers only so that students can communicate well and don’t feel like misfits. Screening is done for students by experts from NDS before admission to analyze their learning levels and give appropriate training. Earlier, students here never had a medium to express themselves. But, a lot has changed since we started teaching them in sign language. The feedback from parents too is excellent,” says Kranthi Valluru.
The school is hoping for accreditation from the National Institute of Open Schooling before March and once they attain it, the students will be writing exams akin to regular schools.
Skill Development Centre:
Along with Akshara Special School, a Skill Development Centre (SDC) for the hearing and speech-impaired has been established in the region for adults. They are taught basic computer education, English, soft skills, management skills and many more. After the course, placement is given in companies in Hyderabad and Mahabubnagar. The school also offers sign language training for interpreters.