Ms. Nilam Patel, 61, has been training hearing-impaired
babies and mainstreaming them directly into normal schools
since 1980. Her experience shows that if deaf children study
in deaf schools, it is very difficult for them to integrate
into normal society later. On the other hand, if such
children are properly taught from ages 1 to 6, they can
learn to speak and can study in a regular school right
through the 10th standard. (Her thesis on 'Inclusive
Education' at www.karmayog.com/ngos/npbft1.htm
an interesting read.)
Without basic education, employment is extremely difficult.
And without employment, acceptance by regular society is
also very difficult. Education thus leads to knowledge,
self-esteem, self-sustainance, and a productive life.
Nilam Patel gives these tuitons on a private basis to
provide for her own livelihood. But, she went one step
further than most of us, and, in 1993, set up the 'Nilam
Patel Bahushrut Foundation'. ('Bahushrut' means a learned
scholar who has acquired knowledge through hearing.)
The Foundation has 2 areas of activities:
1. Scholarships and Prizes for hearing-impaired
school and college graduates: There is a very
high rate of unemployment amongst the hearing-challenged due
to lack of education. Even for reserved government jobs, one
needs to be at least qualified i.e. SSC or tests. So NPBF
has instituted these small merit-based scholarships to
provide enouragement. Applications are invited from students
in schools all over Maharashtra. 236 students have benefited
over the last 10 years.
2. Marriage Bureau for the hearing-impaired:
The aim is to
help adults of Indian origin seeking life partners from a
similar background anwywhere in the world. More
than 100 prospective candidates are registered currently.
Success is modest as NPBF acts as a data-bank rather than
being involved in the actual match-making process.
Match-making is not an easy task because apart from the
usual religion-caste criteria, the medium of instruction in
which each one has learnt to communicate is very
The Nilam Patel Bahushrut Foundation works on a very low
budget. The 2 other trustees are mothers of
hearing-impaired children. There are no employees.
Establishment expenses are low as it operates from Nilam
Patel's home. The overall income (via donations and
interest) is between Rs. 1 and 2 lakhs a year.
NPBF would love to develop and offer a no-profit-no-loss
home-based distance-education training programme for the
parents in training their deaf babies. The cost of
developing that itself would be about Rs. 10 lakhs.