Lata Nayak, Founder and Principal of Rotary Sanskardham Academy for Children with Special Needs (RSA) started this school in 1995. In the last three decades, she changed the life of many students in her academy.
Lata Nayak started the school Rotary Sanshardham Academy in 1995, and since then she has impacted the lives of many children with special needs. Some are preparing to sit for their SSC exams and some have joined the workforce. All thanks to the resilient work of Lata Nayak.
After completing her BEd (Deaf) at Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Mumbai, in 1987, Lata went to the US on a Rotary scholarship and obtained her master’s at Smith College Massachusetts. Ignoring the lucrative opportunities, she returned to India to work for the children. When established, the school, then named – Sanskardham Vidyalaya – started working in a shed in Goregaon, Mumbai, with 24 students.
Today, Rotary Sanskardham Academy for Children with Special Needs (RSA) is a full-fledged academy housed in a four-floor complex, with a junior college, vocational training centre along with an audiology and speech therapy unit, gymnasium, computer lab, science lab, library, etc. As of now, there are 140 students, of which 30 per cent have multiple disabilities like autism, slow learning, mild mental retardation and spasticity. Around 95 per cent of them are from lower-income groups. Originally set up for the hearing impaired, the school soon began to admit children with other disabilities too. RSA is reportedly the only school in Mumbai catering to hearing-impaired students with multiple disabilities.
“Giving them book knowledge and making them pass exams is not enough. I focus more on practical knowledge and its application, teaching with visual aids that make it interesting and easy to absorb. I also make them do things on their own to stimulate their creativity,” explains Lata, who has evolved need-based methods, depending on a student’s abilities, disabilities and interests.
In addition, a combination of sign and spoken language is used in this academy for teaching. RSA also trains the students in gymnastics, sports and cultural activities, including cricket, football, karate, Mallakhamba, painting, dancing and drama.
As a result, several students have been integrated into regular schools. While the majority are trained for regular SSC/HSC board exams, some with severe multiple disabilities are sent for the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), exam. Some have also graduated. Three students from well-off families have gone to Gallaudet University, US, for higher education. The students who participate in many sports and cultural competitions have won a string of trophies and medals. Many have also been employed largely in the hospitality/retail sector. RSA is also focusing on self-employment and training students in IT, ITES, retail, tailoring, drawing/painting, dance, drama, cookery, etc, in association with corporates, professionals and volunteers.
Lata’s achievements and commitment to the cause fetched her many awards, including the National Award for Best Teacher (2006) and Best Individual Working for Disability (2011).
Credits: The Better India
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