Darshan first opened its doors in 2006 to young hearing-impaired children. There is no other such facility in or near the city of Jaipur. Hearing-impaired children are neglected children in several ways. Since they are hearing impaired, they have difficulty getting admission to government schools even as education in government schools is completely free. This is because hearing-impaired children are not able to hear and understand conventional teaching methods and are therefore not in a position to keep up with studies in a regular school. These children are often neglected in the home environment, and are sometimes put to doing domestic chores very early in their lives as they are considered good for nothing else.

The children admitted to Darshan all belong to below-poverty-line families. On admission, they are provided with one hearing aid initially (for one ear) and later, after they have learned to manage the use of one, they are provided with the second hearing aid. Darshan’s work over all these years could not possible without the generosity of the Starkey Foundation which provided Darshan hearing aids free of charge from the start. According to international norms, there should be no more than 8-10 children per special class, as it is difficult for special educators to teach a class of more than 10 HI children.

Special Educator

Teaching is a noble profession; it is more challenging when you have to teach a disabled (Hearing Impaired) student. The teacher assesses the student’s ability and accordingly crafting her teaching plans. The teacher produces the best output for a small group of 8-10 Hearing Impaired students. Where she finds time to adapt learning material to students’ needs, keep track, and reflect on the student’s progress. Monitor the child’s behavioral patterns and arrange appropriate interventions if needed. Special Education Teachers develop teaching plans according to students’ learning needs. They search for activities and resources that can be easily adapted to each child’s educational requirements.

Educational Methods at Darshan

Trained and qualified Special Educators (certified by Rehabilitation Council of India) have been recruited to impart education. In the absence of a special schools like Darshan, these disadvantaged children (who would not be able to follow a curriculum in a ‘normal’ government school) would grow up as – “deaf and mute”. Upon admission to Darshan, each child is immediately tested for audio impairment. After special ear moulds are made for each ear, courtesy the Starkey Foundation’s specialists, they are fitted with hearing-aids by their audiologists. The present cost of each hearing aid in the market is approximately Rs 30,000/-. Enabled to hear sound, often for the first time, the special educators must laboriously teach the children to decipher sound. As a child can take some time to get used to hearing aids, this can be a painstaking process both for teachers, parents and the child. It can take many weeks, even months, to teach them basic phonetics. Periodical audiometrics testing are necessary and conducted. They are gradually educated in Hindi and English, and Math. Darshan’s ultimate objective is to enable as many of these children as possible to join mainstream schools.

Initially our students were recruited in open drives in the city, which were conducted at different locations of Jaipur. Parents began to bring in their children through word-of-mouth. Gradually, more and more parents and guardians reached out to us. Darshan invariably encouraged parents or guardians to accompany the children to school initially, especially in the junior classes. This helped considerably in settling the child into the school environment.

Parent-teacher meetings are conducted every 4-6 weeks. Parents are counselled in every case.

A classroom technique, ‘one student one teacher,’ conducted with each child for a few hours each week (often with the help of parents), has been marked a success. Different methods are used to teach the children to speak as much as possible and wean them away from sign language, which the parents and siblings tend to use at home.

Play groups have helped the children develop both physical and mental capabilities. This technique also helps teachers to understand the degree of progress in hearing impairment or even whether the hearing aids need to be changed. The playgroup slowly develops into more academic learning, with emphasis on speech therapy to develop the ability of the students in pronouncing different alphabets and words.

Many families from villages beyond Jaipur bring their child to Darshan for an education. This poses a big challenge for them as they have to place their child with a relative in Jaipur. Despite this, attendance has continued to grow. In 2018-19, the number of children stood at 86 and the average attendance percentage was 81%. The year ending 2019 has seen 92 children in 10 classes.

We were delighted to be recognised by the Educational Department of the Government of Rajasthan following a visit by Chief Secretary Mr. D B Gupta and Principal Secretary, Education. They spent time at the school, interacted with the teachers and children, and saw the kind of education we were seeking to provide. They were also able to discern the need for the children to be a part of mainstream education, and how this could change their lives.

We are deeply grateful to the Government of Rajasthan for their invaluable support.