The Biju Patnaik Special School for Mentally Challenged Children in Nuapada will complete 20 years on 3rd December 2020, the World Disability Day.
The school was established in the year 2000, with virtually no funds demarcated for it and only a vision, that of Collector Bishnupada Sethi, who wished to do something for the mentally challenged children who are often neglected by their parents, knowingly or unknowingly.
Collector Sethi, who was also the Chairman of the District Red Cross Society, set up the school under the Society.
Funds to the tune of nearly Rs. 5 lakhs were raised from different sources, including the selling of rice gunny bags through Gram Panchayats.
The Minister for Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disability, Ashok Panda, has been closely associated with the school and its activities as he helped raise funds for the school when it was in distress.
District Collector Madhusmita Sahoo has also made regular visits to the school, which has helped increase the morale of the children.
The school began with 35 students, in a rented building. The principal, Mrs. Rajeshwari Samanta, was appointed on 18th December 2000, and she continues to be the principal to this day.
In 2003, the District Rural Development Agency provided the school a complete building on 2.84 acres of land.
Students who are admitted to the school are generally diagnosed with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, multiple disability and other less common disorders.
Based on a comprehensive evaluation, they are placed in the mild, moderate or extreme disability category, and their education is commenced in a similar manner.
Nearly 5 students who had mild disability were gradually normalized and then encouraged to join mainstream schools so as to continue their education in that direction.
Children with moderate disability are given vocational rehabilitation and education according to their special needs, so that they can be reinstated in society in useful and fulfilling roles, which will help them lead meaningful lives.
Two such brilliant examples are the students Rabi Sabar and Ramanlal Patel.
Rabi Sabar, a child who was affected by cerebral palsy, has turned into a successful adult. Once he got adjusted with the school environment and curriculum, he began to display his various skills and abilities.
Upon being given the opportunity to realise his talents, he has proved himself to be an exceptional talent.
He has represented his school in various sporting and cultural activities, an example of which is his winning the first prize in the State Level Fancy Dress Competition for Disabled Children.
Rabi has now become an attendant at the school under the Gharaunda scheme sponsored by the National Trust for Welfare of Disabled Persons, Govt. of India. He earns Rs. 5000 per month, which not only helps his own expenditure, but also takes care of his family expenses in a small way.
Similarly, Ramanlal Patel, another child affected by cerebral palsy, showed great improvement upon being involved in the school activities.
Ramanlal took an interest in computer education, for which he was provided the scope at his school. He is slowly being re-integrated into the society as he often helps his father, who has a grocery shop in the village.
Ramanlal has also volunteered for the school in taking care of other children, and has earned around Rs. 4500 per month for his efforts.
The school is currently closed due to COVID-19. The children were dropped off to their homes in March owing to the COVID situation.