Darshan is a special school established under the aegis of the Lala Chaman Lal Educational Trust for Boys and the Shrimati Bhagwan Devi Educational Trust for Girls. It is a public charitable trust that was registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860 on 11 April 2000, and is located in Jaipur, Rajasthan. It is a day school for hearing-impaired children from classes 1 to 10.
Darshan was founded by Navin Chawla, then a serving officer of the Indian Administrative Service, who went on to become India’s 16th Chief Election Commissioner. As executor of the terms of the will of his late uncle, Lt Cdr D N Chawla, (Indian Navy Retd.), he decided to set up an educational institution disabled boys and girls.
It was decided that education would start with one disability, and hearing impairment was chosen to start with. There was a visible absence of schools for hearing-impaired children in Jaipur and in other nearby districts of Rajasthan. Darshan as it stands today is a product of that vision. From a mere handful of children in 2006, Darshan had grown in 2019, before the Covid pandemic struck, to nearly a hundred children in ten classes. The international norm of no more than nine to ten children in one class is maintained. The teachers are certified by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). We also have one-on-one classes for the children with speech therapists.
In however small a way, Darshan was set up to provide a school for poor hearing-impaired children who, due to their disability, are unable to avail of the free educational facilities provided by the government for ‘normal’ children. It was therefore necessary to provide everything free of charge so that children from the most underprivileged families could benefit, and their lives transformed for the better.
Darshan also seeks to empower older hearing-impaired boys (16 plus) who have been coming to the school from the Govt. Seth Anandi Lal Poddar Deaf Sr. Sec. School for many years to receive free computer training. This training allows these boys to get employment in various industries after their computer course at Darshan is over. In fact, many boys have been placed in hotels such as the Taj Hotels in Jaipur and in jewellery-making businesses.
Over the years, we are delighted to see how the attitudes of parents towards their children have changed as a result of their education at Darshan: Parents now realise that their children too have potential, are worthy of receiving a good education, care and attention, and are able to thrive despite their physical disability. Families, including the children themselves, are now able to dream of a positive and happy future where they too can be part of a productive society.
At Darshan, our effort is to provide a safe, friendly, and happy environment. A hot nourishing meal along with additional nourishment such as milk and fruits were being provided until Covid struck. We have been able to resume the Akshay Patra midday meal, but need funds to provide the children daily snacks. The children also benefit from yoga, sports, art, craft and other extracurricular activities.
Darshan is housed in one of the most ‘disabled-friendly’ buildings in India. Designed by the Jaipur-based architect Amit Gehlot, it was built on a comparatively modest budget which was maintained by using local materials wherever possible.
The brief for the building was that it was to be functional and supportive for multiple disabilities, whether the children to be educated here were physically challenged, visually impaired, hearing impaired and so on. Thus the walls are textured, there are ramps, and there is provision for an elevator, should the need arise. The toilets are also disabled friendly, and ours must be one of the earliest disabled friendly toilets that have been made in India!
The building with its unique design was nominated for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2007. However, as actual work could not be started at the time of consideration, which was a necessary requirement for the Aga Khan Committee, Darshan’s nomination could not make it to the final stage. Nevertheless, Darshan and Mr. Amit Gehlot are proud possessors of a nomination letter from the Aga Khan Trust Click here.