Mangaluru: Manipal School Attavar blends different children through unique 'Art to Connect' scheme


Media Release

Mangaluru, Jun 16: Manipal School, Attavar has regularly bucked the trend with regards to the initiatives it encourages its students to take part in. This year was no different. Several students signed up for 'Art To Connect', a unique and bold scheme conceptualized by education consultant, Dr Nirmala Krishnan, that aims to connect able-bodied children with differently-abled children through song, dance, art and music.

The idea is deceptively simple. Using what is popularly called a ‘buddy’ system, a child from a mainstream school teams up with a child with special needs and together, they can either produce a piece of art, choreograph a dance segment or work on mastering a song.

Since Manipal School already has children with learning disabilities studying with its mainstream children, it was easy to connect the participants. Ira Jain of class 6 teamed up with Suresh* of class 4. Owais of Class VIII was a mentor for Mohan* of class V. Co-ordinating the children, parents and teachers was the school counsellor, Supreetha Shetty.

When the 'Art to Connect' competition was announced on the school’s Facebook site, one of the first to sign up was Ira Jain, a class VI student. She was teamed up with Suresh* of class 4, and together, they decided to do a painting. But the initial days were a bit rough. It took a few days for both the students to get comfortable with each other. Suresh*, who has mild learning disabilities, was initially apprehensive, but because he loved painting and so did Ira, they quickly bonded. Over nearly two months, the two produced a painting, which eventually won them the top prize in the country. Supreetha Shetty recorded the entire process and submitted the recordings to the 'Art to Connect' team.

According to Ira, she learned a lot from Suresh*. She appreciated his patience and his willingness to listen and learn, despite his learning difficulties. Ira’s mother, Dr Rashmi Jain says that from the time she has been a parent of the school, she has seen many differently-abled children on the campus. She feels that this makes both teachers and mainstream students more responsible, empathetic and sensitized to the issues of disability. She also feels that competition should become an annual programme.

While most city schools balk at the prospect of taking on children with special needs, since its inception in 2010, Manipal School has whole-heartedly embraced the concept of inclusive learning, accepted children with learning disabilities. Right from providing ramps and special toilets to providing special needs educators, the school has tried to make its campus as disabled-friendly as possible.

“This is a wonderful initiative to encourage inclusion in our schools. This programme could be continued to make a difference in the lives of specially-abled children,” says Anuradha Shivaram, principal of Manipal School.

Divya Shetty*, the mother of Anushka*, was approached by the school counsellor about signing up her daughter for the competition. Anushka* was diagnosed with mild-moderate autism at a very young age. When she joined Manipal School, she had no problem bonding with her peers but even a small change in her schedule would trigger panic attacks and rage. With time and a lot of help from her classmates and teachers, Anushka* has calmed down considerably. She still has a lot of difficulty with verbal communication but loves to dance. “What she is taught, she remembers very well,” says Shetty. For the 'Art to Connect competition', she was teamed with Nihali of class VI. The duo practised a simple dance routine for a month and sent in a final recording to the 'Art To Connect' organizers.

This year, the competition attracted thousands of entries from schools across India. To celebrate the winners, a grand function was organized in Kalakshetra and to the utter joy of Manipal School, Ira Jain and Suresh’s painting won.

According to the 2019 ‘State of The Education Report for India’, there are 78,64,636 disabled children in India but according to Non-Government Organisations, the number is closer to 12 million. Of this depressing number, more than 75% do not attend school. To address this horrendous social divide, education consultant, Dr Nirmala Krishnan created opportunities for these disadvantaged children to showcase their skills through social platforms such as Link The Dots and Art To Connect.

More importantly, it has created an opportunity for children to discard social restrictions and come together as one. The only way this can be done is to create spaces in schools and educational institutions and welcome children with all abilities- The way Manipal School has been doing.

*names have been changed to protect identity.

  

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Title : Mangaluru: Manipal School Attavar blends different children through unique 'Art to Connect' scheme


 
 
 
 

 
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