BAREILLY: An initiative by a Bareilly school principal to ensure disabled children have access to education was lauded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme after the campaign was able to enrol 600 students with special needs in schools in various districts of Uttar Pradesh since the pandemic last year. The principal, Deepmala Pandey, was joined in her effort by 350 teachers across the state.
The turning point for Pandey as an educator had come in 2018 when she met Anmol (who uses his first name), a mute student with learning difficulties, who had enrolled at her institution.
“When I saw his eagerness to come to school and learn things, I became more sensitive towards children with special needs like him. I realised many students like him are never sent to school by parents who think they can’t learn. I decided to change that attitude,” the 38-year-old told TOI.
Pandey started travelling to villages in Bareilly, talking to parents, urging them to send disabled children to school. When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out last year, the schools shut down, but Pandey decided to scale up her mission which she named in ‘One Teacher, One Call’.
The principal started posting regular updates on social media about the initiative which inspired 350 teachers from various districts such as Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit, Farrukhabad and Ayodhya to join in. A total of 600 students with varying levels of disabilities have been enrolled in schools since then, said Pandey. The teachers visited students’ home during the pandemic to check their progress and to help parents set up online classes for them, said Pandey.
On Sunday, PM Modi heaped praises on Pandey. “This unique effort in Bareilly is showing a new path to divyang children. This campaign is being led by the principal of a school in Dabhaura Gangapur, Deepmala Pandey ji. During the pandemic period, due to this campaign, not only did the admission of a large number of children become possible, more than 350 teachers have also joined it with a spirit of service,” he said.