The Right to Education is a fundamental right. Today schools have a growing need to develop skills to handle differences. In India, we have a government policy in place for Inclusive Education called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan.
But fear of laws does not necessarily change reality. What we need is a collective will to bring in positive change in us and our environment. Currently, the main barriers to equality for people with disabilities are attitudes towards them.
At Trinayani we believe that proper communication is needed to raise awareness on disability, which is too often perceived as merely a health issue, approached with pity, stigma and unknown to the public at large. We design Communication Campaigns to educate people on disability and encourage acceptance of disability as part of the diversity of the human condition (gender, religion, culture, etc.)
As a step towards demystifying issues of disabilities, we partnered with Takshila Education Society which manages and runs four Delhi Public Schools, each in Patna, Pune, Ludhiana and Coimbatore to conceptualize and design their Annual Theme for the academic year March 2015–March 2016, which we aptly titled Celebrating Diversity– The Difference is in knowing.
Throughout the year the students expressed creatively their views on Diversities in the display boards across the schools.
We incorporated the theme of this disability awareness campaign in as many aspects of the school as we could. Including the libraries, classrooms, assemblies, school notebooks, the summer assignments, the curriculum and many extra workshops, hosted quiz, debate and elocution competitions that dealt with the same.
We developed two illustrated workbooks, titled I AM SPECIAL SO ARE YOU for primary school students and CREATING A BETTER WORLD for secondary school students as teaching tools, to be used as a starting point for teachers/parents to develop lessons on understanding disabilities along with providing This-Ability articles for its inclusion in the ORBIT Magazine of Takshila Education Society to be distributed in all 4 schools.
Our motto was not only to spread awareness to the pupils but also the teachers of the schools, through Powerpoint presentations, healthy discussions, case studies and interactions to deepen their understanding of disabilities and diversity a little bit more. We organized a Learning Disability Simulation Lab, conducted by Padma Shastry, to give teachers knowledge about how invisible difficulties affect the learning process and expand their understanding of the actual trouble experienced by students who struggle during the process of learning.
Apart from this, the administrative, ancillary, housekeeping and transport staff attended sessions on the role that language plays in the way we think about disabled people, words that need to be avoided and positive empowering words/phrases that should be used. To add a twist of fun and play, we created our version of the Snakes and Ladder game, 10 by 10 feet flex with a custom made dice, where the students become pawns themselves and played the game in teams, to enhance knowledge and respect for disabilities and build a moral compass for themselves; differentiating right from wrong. Film screening sessions, like the screening of the audio described version of ‘The Little Terrorist’, was held to show how entertainment is provided to persons with disabilities.
For the celebration of World Disability Day, we arranged for a Deaf instructor- Harpriti from Deafway, Delhi to conduct a Sign language workshop in DPS, Ludhiana; for DPS Pune, we arranged for Bhushan Toshniwal who is blind and an accountant and singer to address the staff; For DPS Coimbatore we arranged for Akila Vaidyanathan from the Amaze Charitable Trust, to organize a workshop and exhibition on understanding Autism and lastly, for DPS Patna we had Embracing Diversities workshops for all students in the secondary section throughout the day.
To commemorate ‘World Sight Day’ the school took proactive measures by creating awareness about the rampant disability by taking the eighth graders to the Blind School situated at Thondamuthur. It’s a global initiative, launched in 1999, which aims to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020.
Partners, including governments, working together under VISION 2020 can make a major difference to the lives of millions of women, men and children already visually disabled or at risk. Preserving or restoring vision can be accomplished at little cost and can help lift people out of poverty.
On 9th October, the students were escorted by the faculty members Ms Suseela and Ms Shanti left the school around 7:45 am immediately after the attendance and reached the Blind School to commemorate the special event, which sparked off with a Prayer song sung in unison indeed made the ambience more solemn for the ensuing events. It was then followed by an informative speech delivered by Vidunya, which gave a glimpse of the significance of the day in the broader spectrum. Thereafter, the students of the Blind School enthralled the assembly with the wide array of mellifluous songs, which stole everyone’s heart immensely.
After this, a movie titled ‘Little Terrorist’ was screened emphasizing the lofty ethos that regardless of caste, creed and religion, one ought to embrace all religion graciously. The story was then interpreted in the Tamil language as they were not well-versed in English. Eventually, the event culminated with a vote of thanks by Ms Shanti.
2. “The Learning Factory,” a Musical Puppet Play: Towards Inclusion Campaign
With the enforcement of the Right to Education (RTE) law, there has been a lot of emphasis on including all students in the mainstream education system. This push towards inclusive education, however, is seldom accompanied by teaching the academic community about what inclusion means and how it can be practised. Since educators must truly question the way we approach teaching, we have decided to use the playful yet powerful medium of Puppetry to reach out to the academic community urging them to question their policies on Inclusive Education and inculcate a deeper understanding and Respect for Diversity. The Learning Factory: our Musical Puppet Play on Diversity and Inclusionis based on George Reavis’ fable The Animal School, wherein the animals make common rules for all and later realize that a school with the same rules for all students is dysfunctional since every student has different strengths and they cannot be forced into fixed categories. Puppets have always been used to educate and encourage positive change along with entertaining the crowd. Besides, the imagination of today’s generation which is becoming redundant due to the abundance of technology will also be rekindled.
As a travelling puppet theatre, we have performed at the Prince of Wales Museum, Kala Ghoda Festival in 2016, the Godrej Dance Theatre NCPA, the Bandra Auditorium, Praygna Bodhini School, and Beacon High School, where people with and without disabilities attended the show.
Trinayani also represented Maharashtra in the National Consultation where we partnered with the Chief Election Officer, Maharashtra to create Electoral awareness Brochures and films titled ‘Think Ink’ in Hindi, Marathi and English. Think Ink brochure targets the voters with a disability to urge them to cast their votes during the Parliamentary Elections in 2019. The second Brochure was created for Booth Officers. We also created the Think Ink awareness film in accessible formats with subtitles as well as sign language interpretation of the same. We thank Hashu Advani college of special education for helping us out with the content regarding the film and brochures.