An Uttar Pradesh teacher’s initiative to ensure physically-challenged children do not miss out on school education has taken the shape of a campaign, which now has hundreds as beneficiaries, and has also drawn praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Deepmala Pandey, who is the principal of a primary school in Dabhora Gangapur village in Bareilly district, began the initiative in 2018 to identify out of school physically-challenged children and get them enrolled, and now it is known as the “one teacher, one call” campaign.
What was once the cause of an individual, has at present 350 teachers of different schools contributing to it.
The “one teacher, one call” campaign drew praise from Prime Minister Modi, who in his Sunday “Maan ki Baat” lauded her efforts, and that of other teachers’ who joined her in the drive.
Pandey said she was moved by the helplessness of a nine-year-old boy named Anmol, who lived in her school’s neighbourhood and would silently watch children coming to the school.
She found that the boy was mute from birth and his family never thought of sending him to school.
The principal told PTI that she was deeply touched by this and resolved to get the child admitted to a school anyhow.
Pandey said she started calling the boy to her school and saw a dramatic change in him after a year.
“Today Anmol is studying in class IV in the same school,” she said with satisfaction.
Buoyed by her success, she roped in more teachers and launched a drive to look for physically-challenged children in the village and other parts of the district.
“A total of 350 teachers are today part of the ‘one teacher, one call’ campaign launched in 2019,” she said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic hampering mobility, she took recourse to social media and organised webinars to link more and more teachers in the movement.
“Around 600 physically challenged children have been moved to different schools as part of the drive in the district so far,” she said, adding efforts are on to spread the campaign to the national level.
Santosh Gangwar, former union minister and parliamentarian from Bareilly, honoured Pandey and her team on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti on behalf of the state government.
“Now several NGOs have evinced interest to become part of the campaign,” she said.
A review meeting is held regularly to assess progress of the drive, Pandey said.
During a review meeting recently, it was decided that these special children should be provided training in different vocational courses to help them participate in skill-based functions at the national level.
Bareilly district Basic Education Officer Vinay Kumar hailed Pandey’s efforts and drew attention to a similar provision in the Right to Education Act.
“In Bareilly district around 7,000 such children have been enrolled in different schools so far,” he said, adding there are 38 teachers trained in imparting education to these students.
“The trained teachers give education to physically challenged students in a school for 30 days and also hold training sessions for the teachers in that school for their continued learning,” Kumar said.
Pandey doesn’t take any financial assistance from the government for her drive.