Sharjah: Parents of children with special needs in Sharjah are heaving a sigh of relief with the opening of a low-cost, non-profit special school.
Al Ibtisama Centre for People with Disabilities was officially opened in Al Samnan area on Monday morning.
Owned and managed by the Indian Association in Sharjah, the centre is an answer to the long-pending demand from parents who cannot afford the high cost of special education for their children, said E.P. Johnson, the president of the association.
“We are offering special education courses for Dh2,500 (per month), which is half of what parents pay to many facilities,” he told Gulf News.
“This will be a big relief for parents who struggle to provide special education for their children. They will not be forced to keep these children at home due to financial constraints.”
This will be a big relief for parents who struggle to provide special education for their children. They will not be forced to keep these children at home due to financial constraints.
Though the school primarily caters to Indian children, Johnson said, the centre has already admitted a couple of children from other nationalities as well.
Merry Mol, who has a 13-year-old son with cerebral palsy, said the family had sent him to multiple centres for special education, mainly in Dubai, since he was five. “But all those places have been very pricey. Fee-wise and distance-wise this centre is far better for us.”
Reena Balram, whose 17-year-old autistic daughter has joined the centre, said: “We went back to India for the last three years. Now, we are happy to be back and she will be doing vocational training here.”
The mothers said their biggest dream is to make their determined children independent and not rely on others for their basic needs.
“If they can get any job through the vocational course, it will be a bonus for us,” said Reena.
Licensed by the Community Development Authority, the centre follows the curriculum of the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in India.
Jayanarayanan. N, principal of the centre, said the institution provides training to the intellectually disabled — those with autism, cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities. Children aged from three to 18 can be enrolled.
“We have all the therapy services — like physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and psychology, plus special education,” he said.
He said the centre admits eight students in one classroom with one teacher and one assistant teacher, both qualified in special education.
“We will provide training for 60 students at present and we plan to start another shift for more students because we have already got more than 120 registration requests.”
Abhilash. R, who has enrolled his 10-year-old autistic son, said Indian parents had struggled for years to get a special school with the expat community’s support.
“There are many parents who cannot even afford the fees here. I hope community leaders will come forward to support the centre financially,” he said.
Abdulla Ali Al Muhairi, manager of Emirates Red Crescent, who distributed gift boxes to the students, said the charity organisation regularly gets requests from parents in distress to help them pay school fees. “We support many children. We will offer support for this centre also,” he said.
Several dignitaries and prominent community members attended the opening ceremony.
The guests included Salem Yousuf Al Qaseer, chairman of the Labour Standards Development Authority in Sharjah; Sanjeev Kumar, Head of Chancery and Consul (Protocol & RTI), Community Affairs at the Indian Consulate in Dubai; Benny Behanan, member of Indian Parliament and UDF convener in Kerala; Dr M. K. Muneer, deputy leader of opposition and former Minister of Social Welfare and Panchayat, government of Kerala; Ahmad Mohamad Al Midfa, patron of Indian Association Sharjah, and senior officials from Red Crescent and the association.