A pupil participates in a summer campaign for children of determination. Image Credit: Ramesh Menon/Gulf News reader

Abu Dhabi: Over the summer, I got a chance to interact with some children of determination and during these interactions, I realised that it is not easy for them to get admission at schools. Their parents struggle to enroll them at regular schools and this is a matter of concern. However, one individual is trying to change this by trying to set up a special centre to cater to their needs.

Hari Adichanalloor, in coordination with the Indian Association Sharjah, has been working since the summer on this project and his dream might just be realised in December.

Adichanalloor said: “There are a lot of issues involved, which makes the lives of these children even more difficult. There is a need for more training institutes and there is a lack of awareness about government schemes, in both the UAE and India.”

This is why Adichanalloor and his team members have taken it upon themselves to start a school for children with determination focussing on affordability and quality.

Challenges faced

Anupa Mathews, mother of a seven-year-old autistic child, agrees that fees at some special schools or centres is a discouraging factor for parents.

She told Gulf News: “He goes to a special school, but for just three hours a day, we pay around Dh5,000 per month, excluding transportation costs.”

She applied to over 45 schools, before this centre, in order to enrol her child. He was finally accepted by one school in Sharjah, but two years later, Mathews was informed that the school didn’t have space for children of determination anymore. That’s when Mathews opted for the centre he attends now.

She said: “I believe that education is the basic right of a child, no matter who you are. I don’t understand why a child with determination can’t get admission? One child we know doesn’t have limbs, but he is passionate about drawing and is mentally sound. Anther child with autism has a fantastic memory.”

She has noticed that her child has improved a lot since he started attending the special classes. Socialising with others is a big advantage in Mathews’ opinion. So, she joined the ‘Team India Special Smiles’ group, initiated by Adichanalloor and joined around 60 families based in the UAE who were facing similar issues.

Menon met some children of the group during a special musical session over the summer. Image Credit: Ramesh Menon/Gulf News reader

A new mission

It all started when Adichanalloor conducted a session for children with determination in Sharjah under the guidance of his mentors a few years ago. Since then, he has started working to give a voice to children with determination and formed the group under the patronage of Indian Association Sharjah.

I was invited to be a part of a special musical session hosted by Adichanalloor over the summer, which is when I met him and the children.

About 27 children of determination, along with their parents and siblings, came together to attend and participate in this session titled ‘Rhythm of Life’.

It was a mix of percussion music combined opportunistically, permitting the participating children to do what they could within their capacity.

After meeting and working with his team, I am glad that Adichanalloor’s request for help was taken into account by the authorities at the Indian Association Sharjah, who gave him and his team immense support even in times of financial constraint. The management, both past and present, have worked closely with Adichanalloor for the materialisation of his dream.

About 27 children of determination, along with their parents and siblings, participated in the ‘Rhythm of Life’ session. Image Credit: Ramesh Menon/Gulf News reader

E. P. Jhonson, president of the Indian Association Sharjah, told Gulf News that they decided to get on board because they care about the welfare of the Indian community in the UAE.

He said: “Education for these children is very important. So, we are totally involved in this project. There were some issues with the licence, but all of that is sorted and we have the licence from the relevant authorities and we are trying to open the centre as soon as possible.”

They are aiming to begin enrolling children by the end of December. They will begin with 40 to 70 children initially and proceed further next year.

A new chapter begins soon 

Jhonson said: “We have permission for 140 children, but we won’t immediately take that number. There are a lot of issues that we still have to deal with, including hiring enough teachers. The criteria is that we need one teacher per seven students.”

The fees, Jhonson said, would be lesser. The school will be named ‘Al Ibtisama’, which means ‘The Smile’, and will be located in Sharjah. The Indian Association Sharjah is moving ahead to support children of determination. As a humble beginning, approvals have been obtained from authorities for an initial intake of 70 students in the school.

Adichanalloor said: “I am thankful to the Almighty and members of the Indian Association Sharjah for giving me a chance to serve these children. The management committee trusted me and boosted my confidence. As the final moments of the realisation of our dream approach, we need the help and support of the society.”

The main challenge they face is the economical sustainability of the project as they plan for a highly subsidised fee structure.

— The reader is a communications coordinator based in Abu Dhabi.

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