Kalam Express —Chandigarh’s school on wheels for differently-abled underprivileged childrenSanjana Ray
Every child wishes for a magic bus. Who wouldn’t? It’s literally out of a fairy tale, spending your whole day doing new things while on the road! I remember the most boring part of being in school was sitting at the same desk for the six hours that my mother would force me to get out of bed for. I’d clamour for the window seat in class, just so I could have something to stare out at while my insipid math teacher droned on about the area of a triangle. I remember wishing to be on the road, glaring enviously at the many cars swishing by, their owners unaware of enduring the wrath of a seven-year-old girl in pigtails. I often told myself that there would come a day when learning would be made, even envisioning being a hip teacher someday.
Well, someone heard that wish and today is acting as fairy godmother to all the little boys and girls sitting at their desk by the little window of their classroom. Chandigarh recently launched its school on wheels, a mobile school-cum-bus called Kalam Express, which aims to provide quality education to children with special needs, right at their doorstep!
This delightful concept is the brainchild of the UT Deputy Commissioner, Ajit Balaji Joshi, and his wife Gauri Prashar Joshi, who is the Director of Haryana Tourism. The couple launched this new school on wheels with the help of the Punjab and Haryana Governor-cum-UT Administrator Kaptan Singh Solanki.
The mobile school has been equipped with all that one would need for such a unique classroom — projector, laptop, educational toys, books, and notebooks. It also contains therapy equipment. To make it a certified and safe entity, the activities inside the Kalam Express will be supervised by a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist, while the volunteers and professionals, who are equipped to teach children with special needs, carry out their classes.
This isn’t the first time that the Joshi duo has opened a school for the mentally and physically disabled. They launched their first school in Jind last year, where about 200 students with special needs are now enrolled.
“Since we have provided all facilities, the teachers can teach inside the bus if there are many children in a village and he feels teaching each student separately at his house is impossible. For this, he will have to park his bus near the houses of the students concerned,” said Gauri Joshi, who was then acting as the ADC of Jind.
She had even managed to create a strong team comprising 27 special teachers across the Jind District and even roped in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Red Cross Society, and the Health Department.
This initiative was the first of its kind in Haryana, which aimed to grant education to the 1,700 differently abled children in that particular district.
“Here, in the first go, we will cover 193 kids and we will start the second such school on wheels within two months,” Joshi told Chandigarh Tribune while disclosing that the school would work for six days a week and focus on slum areas in the city.
He said that the capital estimate was centring on Rs 10 lakh, while the recurring cost involving fuel and establishment equipment would be incurred by the UT Red Cross Society.
“At present, we have used an old Red Cross vehicle for launching the mobile educational-cum-rehabilitation unit, but we will buy a new vehicle for the second school on wheels,” Joshi added.
This joint initiative undertaken by the Joshis and Solanki has been applauded by the Union Government. In fact, the Joshi duo were requested to meet Smriti Irani, then Union HRD Minister in Gurgaon last October so that she could congratulate them in person.
The mobile school will cover a wide range, the specific areas mentioned being Sector 26, Bapu Dham Colony, Mauli Jagran, Burail, Maloya, Palsora, Dhanas, Dadu Majra, Kishangarh, Indira Colony, Kajheri, Colony No. 4, Hallo Majra, and other backward areas.