Set up in 1974 by the Manipur government, the state’s only Deaf and Mute School located at Takyel in Imphal West district will be celebrating its golden jubilee in 2024. But even after 49 years of its establishment, there seems to be no effective policy and strategy from the government to upgrade the school or the education system for students with special needs.
In an exclusive interview to the Imphal Free Press, the principal of the government Deaf and Mute School, Nongmaithem Kalpana lamented over the fact that there are no higher educational institutes for deaf and mute students in the state.
The Deaf and Mute School, Takyel established under the state government is the only high school-level educational institute for deaf and mute students in Manipur, Kalpana said. Students with special needs have no option but to venture outside the state after finishing Class 10 if they want to pursue higher studies, she further said.
“Most of the students come from economically poor backgrounds and as such going outside the state for higher studies is not feasible for the majority of the students; even if they go, the students find it hard to keep up with the education system and the cost of living and end up returning to Manipur most of the time,” she said.
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The principal stated that deaf and mute students, after passing class 10, join regular colleges and secondary schools since that is the only viable option for further studies in Manipur.
According to Kalpana, the main motive for the majority of the deaf and mute students joining regular educational institutes, however, is to procure degree certificates.
“Even though they join regular educational institutes, they have a hard time coping with the academic syllabus and teaching methods as their objective slips to survival rather than enjoying the educational experience,” she said.
Nongmaithem Kalpana stressed that such a chain of education among the special needs students would not foster any quality growth for the deaf and mute community in Manipur. She stressed the felt need to provide proper higher education to students with special needs.
Kalpana maintained that the school, located about 1.5 km from the state capital Imphal, had been recognised by the Board of Secondary Education Manipur since its inception. The school was prescribed the same academic syllabus as other regular high schools in the state.
“There have been instances in the past where teachers tried to make a separate academic syllabus for persons with disabilities (PWDs); in 2010, proposals for such changes were sent to state authorities concerned but the proposed changes for the deaf and mute syllabus was shot down as the state authorities cited that central regulations did not have any provisions for the proposed changes,” she recalled.
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However, Kalpana further said that the proposed syllabus changes for the state blind school in 2010 was accepted and hence, has been implemented ever since.
In an effort to bring about the much-needed change and development in the education system for PWDs, the Deaf and Mute School is striving to frame a new proposal and send it to the state authorities concerned for approval, she disclosed to the Imphal Free Press.
She further stressed the need to include more vocational courses in the academic syllabus for the deaf and mute students in the school. The students excel in extra-curricular activities, hence emphasising on this aspect of their education will immensely benefit them in the long run, she suggested.
“Their academic syllabus should be practical; it should have real-world applications. It should equip them with the skills and knowledge required to operate in today’s society,” she further said in view of the fast changing world scenario.
Kalpana also highlighted that the Deaf and Mute School, Takyel had recently initiated works to invigorate the academic and extra-curricular affairs for the students.
The school has a playground, but it is small in size. She claimed that school authorities had requested a neighbouring local club to utilize their playground for the students since the school playground was small.
“The school authorities are working to create a judicious mixture of play and study for the holistic development of the deaf and mute students," Kalpana added.
The principal also highlighted that the school currently started classes for fine arts, tailoring and even offered yoga classes twice weekly.
Kalpana also pointed out the need for parents to take an active role in their children’s education and growth. She stated that apart from the teachers and the education provided, the students’ parents have a vital role and responsibility in improving the educational quality and in shaping of the children’s overall growth.
Regarding the Deaf and Mute School administration, Nongmaithem Kalpana informed that the school had altogether 25 staff. In all, 18 of them belonged to teaching staff. She maintained that even though there was a shortage of teaching staff, the school was making efforts and managing to impart quality education to the students of the school.
Pointing out that “all the subjects do not have the required number of teachers; and there are subjects with no teachers to teach,” she stressed that “authorities concerned should seriously look into the matter and upgrade the education system for the deaf and mute students in the state”.
The principal also stated that maintaining both academic and administrative affairs with limited manpower and resources had been a challenging task. Lack of adequate manpower and resources posed major hurdle in providing quality education to the students. In view of the issue, she urged authorities concerned to fill in all required posts in the school, lest the students continue to suffer and the school fails to achieve much.
On school infrastructure, Kalpana pointed out that the school had altogether 12 rooms, but currently there are no classrooms for classes three and four as some of the rooms had been allotted for smart classrooms under the Central government Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
She also highlighted that the school had a proper hall to conduct official school programmes and stated that the hostel building currently housed both the girls and boys on separate floors.
The principal also maintained that the school lacked proper furniture and other infrastructure and that the buildings needed renovation work, as the structure is now almost 50 years old.
Kalpana stated that various provisions had been provided under the state government which include providing ample hearing aids, free books and even slight developments in the infrastructure.
But she maintained that the current status of the school was not befitting of a school nearing 50 years of establishment. As such, she appealed to authorities concerned to ensure the required measures to make the school, one of the most sought-after deaf and mute institutes in the country.