What started with four students is now a huge residential school that is changing the lives of hundreds of visually impaired girls. It not only provides a safe haven and quality education, but also find suitable life partners for the girls when are of marriageable age!
Ayesha, a visually impaired grade 10 student, talks about her ambitions in fluent English and shares how her life has changed over a period of time. “I knew nothing. I could not even speak properly. From alphabets to basic communication, I struggled with everything,” she says.
She joined Andh Kanya Prakash Gruh (AKPG) and you can see the change for yourself. Not only does she sound confident but she openly talks about her ambitions and dreams. “I love reading and want to become an English teacher!” she exclaims.
She bids goodbye with a smiling “Have a nice day”, and leaves for her class. Ayesha is one of hundreds of girls whose lives have taken a positive turn ever since they joined AKPG, an NGO that specifically works with visually impaired girls.
Started by Nilkanth Rai Chatrapati in 1954 when he saw the poor state of education for visually impaired girls, AKPG’s main objective is to impart quality education and make the girls lead an independent and responsible life. What started with just four students is now a huge residential school that hosts around 200 girls and has a well furnished building in one of the best locations in Ahmedabad city.
“It was a humble attempt to start something for visually impaired girls with a donation of Rs. 10,000 by Mr. Chatrapati. But it is overwhelming to see how much it has grown and the way the girls have turned out,” says Smita, project coordinator at AKPG.
A residential school till standard eight, AKPG educates the girls through Braille and also helps them develop various life skills that can make them self-dependent.
“Girls who study above the eighth standard also live here but they go to a regular school and college,” says Smita. Apart from regular classes, the girls also learn various arts and crafts like tailoring, home science, weaving, etc that would enable them to earn some income in the future.
The girls make mouth-watering chikkis (sweet bars) – within two moths they were able to sell chikkis worth Rs. 6,00,000. Not only sweets, the girls also make amazing diyas (lamps) on Diwali and are getting trained in beauty parlour work
The girls who joined school under depression and various debilitating circumstances are now going places, some of them even enjoying enviable careers in banking, teaching, etc.
The team of 20 teachers make sure that girls embrace their presence and become more confident. They are encouraged to participate in various competitions. Students of AKPG often win the first prize in Braille reading and writing competition.
Some students pursue vocational courses available in local institutes where they can learn physiotherapy, beauty care, use of Braille computers and telephone operating skills.
The 10,000 ward building has sufficient space for a hostel building, a place of worship, a playground with a reasonably large lawn and a special park where the children can enjoy nature, play games, do free-hand exercises, take yoga lessons and partake in cultural activities.
Picnics and exposure visits are regular activities and the school also helps the girls to find suitable life partners when they are of marriageable age.
While initially it was a challenge to keep the students engaged, the school has now become a loving home where girls feel free and liberated and can experiment with various interests and skills.
“In certain jobs, our girls do face a challenge because of their disability. Like in beauty care jobs, they give amazing massages but cannot do eyebrows. These girls are really talented and we constantly look for the right opportunities to make them self-dependent,” says Smita.
AKPG’s goal is to make the girls understand they there is nothing that they cannot do. “We advise each one of the girls to believe in herself and to know that she can do everything, and that we are here to help her out with that,” says Smita.
In the future, AKPG wants to get more students and organize more activities for them. Also, in case you are in Ahmedabad, the school is looking for volunteers and teachers to spend some time and teach the students. If not, you could always help AKPG with monetary help and donations to get more resources for the girls.
To know more about the school’s work, check out their website.