Finding the ‘Special’ in Children

A school in Kodagu is knitting stories of success and seeding hope in the lives of specially-abled kids.

Published: 29th January 2023 10:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th January 2023 10:50 AM   |  A+A-

Apart from education, students also get training in various activities like tailoring. (Photo | Express)

Apart from education, students also get training in various activities like tailoring. (Photo | Express)

Express News Service

MADIKERI : Smiling faces welcome one into the quaint ambience enveloping Kodagu Vidyalaya Opportunity School in Madikeri. Discipline, empathy, simplicity and serenity engulf one’s senses during a visit to the school – the first institution established in Kodagu to address the needs of specially-abled kids. Kodagu Vidyalaya was set up by late Biddanda S Kushalappa. As the institution grew, Kushalappa’s son, late Biddanda Subiah (a spiritual leader), envisioned a school to address the needs of specially-abled children. Thus, Kodagu Vidyalaya Opportunity School was founded in 1996 by BK Subiah, Meena Cariappa, and other like-minded visionaries.

Since inception, the institution has extended free, quality education to thousands of specially-abled children from across the district. “We strive for early intervention in addressing the needs of specially-abled kids in the district. The students are mostly from families with weak economic backgrounds,” explains Geetha Shridhar, the principal.

The school started its journey towards extending free education with help from benefactors and donors. Today, it receives a minimum grant from the state, alongside continued support from trustees and donors. The institution currently nurtures 61 students with special needs, who are provided an opportunity to join the mainstream. While inclusive society is still a far-fetched dream, the students here are taught to face the competitive world with finesse, confidence and creativity. Under the guidance of founders Meena Cariappa and Veena Chengappa, and Geetha Shridhar, a team of 10 special educators, including specialists trained in handling intellectual disabilities, prepare the special children to face the world.

The institution – which saw complete renovation in 2021, thanks to donations from Govind Bhat and Meenakshi Bhat Memorial Trust – currently carries an aesthetic ambience. Apart from special education by professionals, the students here grow in a tranquil atmosphere with ample space for sports activities. Hundreds from here have participated in Special Olympics and other national and international sporting events, and have also won medals.

“The institution caters to the needs of all specially-abled kids, including students with autism, cerebral palsy, hearing and speech impairments. We create awareness on the need for early intervention to address the needs of these children,” Geetha adds. Unique study plans are structured by the special educators for each individual and assistive technology is used to communicate with children with special needs. The campus also hosts a computer lab, functional kitchen, physiotherapy and sensory room, an audiology unit with audiometry chamber and vocational training centres.   

 A child’s ability is recognised by the special educators and suitable vocational training is extended. The institution has various training sections, including a stationery unit – where children learn to make notepads and other items; a catering unit – where kids learn to bake; a tailoring unit – where the students stitch cloth bags and other utilities; a phenyl manufacturing unit and a gardening section. The products made here are marketed at the school premises and at an outlet near GT Circle in Madikeri. Meanwhile, the kids are also taught to respect nature, even as they are skilled in scientific waste management.

The Kodagu Vidyalaya Opportunity School holds pride in turning a child into a source of inspiration. Fourteen-year-old Kalpanath joined the school in 1996. His abilities were identified by special educators, who trained him accordingly. He went on to represent India in the Special Olympics in Alaska, winning a medal for the country. Today, Kalpanath works as a special instructor in vocational training at a centre for people with special needs.

The institution promotes kids to take part in Special Olympics and a total of six students have won medals at state and national-level tournaments so far. Several students have passed the 10th grade exams too, and are placed in various private companies in areas ranging from computers, electronics to jewellery design. A first-of-its-kind in the district, the Kodagu Vidyalaya Opportunity School has given hope, confidence and new meaning to the lives of many specially-abled children. “The institution has many other visions, which can be achieved through support from donors,” concludes Gurudath CS, a trustee. The management now aims at establishing a corpus fund to ensure a self-sustainable model, which will help create more programmes for better integration of the special children.

Product sale
In 2020, for the first time, the institution organised a sale of the products made on campus. It now plans to host this annually to raise funds and promote the talents of special kids.


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