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Inclusive display of sports on the ground

CHENNAI: If you were taking a stroll along the GN Chetty Road towards Gemini Flyover on Friday morning, you could not have missed the sight of a bunch of Sathiyamurthi Higher Secondary School students helping the general public cross the road. Soon after when you enter the school premises, you are greeted by sporting activities often associated with sports day. However, this one is unlike any other school sports day.

Some of the children were dressed in blue, resembling a calm sea while a few other re-enacted people playing and walking on the beach and taking a ride on a boat with the sun rising behind. It was the annual sports day of Madhuram Narayanan Centre for Exceptional Children (A Unit of Bala Mandir Kamaraj Trust). The occasion was graced by chief guests Edward Pang, Consul-General of the Republic of Singapore and Nicole Chen, the Vice Consul, Consulate General.

Started as an initiative for early intervention and assist children with intellectual disability in 1989, MNC has been working towards their inclusivity and betterment for more than two decades. In 2018, they became an integral part of Bala Mandir Kamaraj Trust, aiming to prepare children — in three categories, Montessori, birth to four years, and four to six years — for the basic activities of daily life.

Apart from that, they also have a Jivikam Skill Development Unit where the students are trained in pre-vocational skills like gardening. The competitions, which were essentially about participation, included holding a fan, self-grooming, rolling chapatis, drying wet towels, packing lunch bags, planting saplings, and assembling torchlights among others. “It is activity-oriented, like pouring water in a bucket, sorting out colours, for example. Sports as far as MNC is concerned, is a part of training, especially fine motor skill training,” said S Krishnan, joint hon. secretary, Bala Mandir Kamaraj Trust.

The sports day activities also involved students from Bala Mandir and Sathiyamurthi Higher Secondary School. Making the students participate alongside is a way of making it an inclusive process, says N Kumar, president, Bala Mandir Kamaraj Trust, and chairman, Group Corporate Board, Sanmar Group. “They are excluded in most situations, so we are trying to get these children to interact with other children. One, it makes the other children sensitised to the issues that are in the world. And these (MNC) children are learning that they can make it in the world,” explained Kumar.

Watching the students showcase their abilities in front of their parents and special educators, who have played a significant role in their growth, over two hours, was inspiring, to say the least. Pang said as much. “As we look around we see the vibrant colours, beaming smiles. There is excitement in the air, curiosity, joy, camaraderie and unforgettable moments for the children. This is the day where talents shine, barriers crumble and dreams take flight,” he said.

One of the noticeable things at the event was the involvement of parents. Even as the children tried to compete and win in the events, the parents were more excited and filled with joy watching them. Andal Raghavan, member in charge, MNC, said that the involvement of parents is crucial for every student’s betterment. “Parents have to be there. They are here for all events. This is one of the difficult things for a parent, with time they get a little happier after coming here,” she said.

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