The NGO is creating an inclusive space for learning and personality development for poor students with learning disabilities studying in government schools.
Staring at numbers, alphabets and the train of sentences in the book would frustrate Mohini, a Class IV student at Municipal Corporation's Savarkar Nagar School, Thane. She has dyslexia, a learning disability (LD) causing problems with linguistic skills, and dyscalculia, which is a disability concerning number-related concepts and maths.
But with the help of her teachers from Mimaansa, Mohini is now able to learn alphabets and solve simple arithmetic. She can also tell the time by looking at the clock. Mohini is privileged to have received help as our education system fails to recognise children with LD, and labels them as 'dumb'.
“It is more common than you can imagine. You are not alone. And while you will have this the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go and it will not hold you back.”
These are lines from Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who also suffered from an LD. In India, around 13-14 percent of children suffer from one or other form of LD. According to National Center for Learning Disabilities, LD is a neurological disorder that affects the brain's ability to receive, process, store and respond to information, and has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence.
In our country, most schools fail to recognise the special needs of this children, and even if they do it is not affordable for everyone. But there are teachers who want to dive into the minds of these children and help them. One such teacher is Pooja Joshi, Founder of Mimaansa.
“At 21, I started my career as a French teacher for Class VIII-XII students. As a class teacher I received the roll-call sheet of the students with ‘Special ’ written against a few names; no one told us teachers about what that meant." Pooja adds,
Later, I moved to an international school, which had a resource room and ‘Learning Disability (LD)’ was pronounced for the first time. A broken leg ensured that I stay stationed on the ground floor in the resource room and that was the first time I saw the struggle of kids with LD for something as basic as learning, which we so easily take for granted. I started spending more time with them and they began to feel comfortable with me. Then I went on to work with an NGO to understand the needs of children with LD.”
She founded Mimaansa in 2012, which is an NGO consisting of a group of teachers, special educators, psychologist and neuro-linguistic programmers in Thane. Their prime focus is to intervene and help children with learning disabilities cope better in underprivileged schools. The organisation is currently working in Kisan Nagar and Savarkar Nagar area of Thane, and helping more than 400 students.
“We run a volunteer teaching programme in Thane, in English, maths, and art & crafts. We also run a strong remediation programme under which we identify, diagnose, through curriculum-based assessment programme, and remediate children with LD by using the play-way method of teaching-learning, along with other alternative methods of teaching. This programme is run by a team of skilled counsellors and special educators,” explains Pooja.
Where there is a will there is a way
Mimaansa is partnered with Atma Education Trust, Udaan India Foundation and Prerana, who have joined hands to improve the life of children. The organisation is funded and supported by UnLtd India, a launchpad for social entrepreneurship. The organisation envisions catering to underprivileged government schools and creating an inclusive space for learning and personal development of students with LD.