Have skills, will earn

Have skills, will earn

It’s Christmas today, but special children of Jidd school received their gift from Santa five days ago on Sunday itself. And what a special gift it was – a vocational training centre. To gauge the importance of such a training centre, consider this: 40 million children in India are either physically or mentally challenged and a large percentage of these are denied their basic right to education. And even the few lucky ones who manage to study in school are left high and dry once school is over. When these children grow up, they have no option but to depend on others for who will employ them or what will they do?

The Vocational Training Centre at Jidd School, the first of its kind in Thane, is an attempt to answer this difficult question. The centre, which occupies two large rooms in the school’s premises, has been entirely sponsored by the Rotary Club of Thane Hills (RCTH). Equipped with professional apparatus, students will learn soft skills like producing paper bags and office files, screen-printing, producing liquid detergents and phenol and creating and managing a plant nursery. The latter will serve as a plant library, much like a regular book library, where you can borrow a variety of plants for a fixed period of time. The tools at the centre come with built-in safety, so that special children find it easy and safe to use. What’s more, to ensure proper training of children, school instructors completed a course in vocational training from the National Job Development Centre at Chembur, run by the Spastics Society of India (SSI).

Sanjay Sethi, TMC’s new commissioner, who was the chief Guest of the inaugural function, expressed his fondness for the Jidda School and promised to help the school in whichever way possible. For starters, he assured the school’s principal Shyamashree Bhonsle that he will grant permission to Jidda School for construction of the first floor to accommodate the growing number of students. In his address, Sethi appreciated the training centre initiative but also highlighted the need for savvy marketing of the products made by special children. He suggested the use of small labels which will point out that the products have been made by special children. "The market is very competitive and it is usually quite difficult to get orders unless you try something unique and appeal to the spirit of the people," Sethi said.

Marketing is without doubt an important issue, but the Rotary Club is confident that with the right approach, it would be possible to find a market for the products and services offered by these children. Already the TMC Mayor has indicated that TMC will buy files made by these children. "The next move is to make workshop shelters for these children where they will actually manufacture these products. We will hand over the operations of these workshops to Jagruti, which is the association of parents of special children," said Ravi Iyer, project in-charge from the RCTH. Iyer said they also propose to tap the other Rotary clubs of Thane, who already support the Jidda School actively in many ways.

The guest of honour at the function was Varsha Hooja, Team Coordinator of National Resource Centre for Inclusion, an arm of the SSI. Hooja was extremely impressed by Jidd School and said she had not expected a school run by TMC to be so well maintained and well run. She invited Jidd School and TMC to collaborate with SSI in their various projects.

The Vocational Training Centre is a step in the right direction for special schools. Let’s hope more and more special schools follow this example of teaching fishing, instead of merely providing fish.

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