Busy hands, thinking minds – The TTIS and VAANI Essay Challenge

Over 75 imaginative essays were penned by students from 14 schools of Kolkata in support of our attempt to make the end of school calendar year a special one. These enthusiasts came from classes VII, VIII and IX to participate in the TTIS and VAANI Essay Challenge 2011. The topic was “Deaf…So What?” and the focus, very clearly on encouraging students to think about childhood and deafness.

It was nice to see the participants troop in way before the reporting time on a windy winter morning, the participative spirit very visible in their expressions. Soon, the two classrooms of Frank Anthony Public School (who very generously let VAANI use the school as the venue for the competition) were buzzing with questions like, “When do we start writing?” and “do we really have to stick to the word limit?” The excitement was palpable.

Registration over, all the participants trooped into one of the classrooms where Mrs. Brinda Crishna, Director, VAANI, Deaf Children’s Foundation, delivered the welcome address. She spoke to the children about VAANI and about deafness. “This is an effort by VAANI to make you think about a different world that exists out there. Not to turn all of you into activists, but to just make you realize that there are children like you, whose experiences are different, children like you, who think differently because of that.” She spoke about the fact that, with the idea of inclusive schools gaining momentum in our times, VAANI feels it necessary for children to recognise and understand the perils of being deaf. To create an enabling environment for deaf children to be included in the world around them, it is very important for their peers to be sensitive to the cause of childhood deafness.

It was Sundeep Kothari, Training Assistant and Deaf Role Model (VAANI) who next spoke to the children about himself. The story of his life gave the participants enough food for thought apart from their preparations just before the competition began. Encouraged to interact with Sundeep, the students came up with some thought provoking questions like – “How does it feel to be deaf?”

Sundeep’s answer was that he didn’t feel any different from any one of them now. But when he was growing up and went to a school where he was the only deaf child among all hearing peers who ridiculed him, and a teacher who was always angry because he couldn’t follow what was being taught, he was afraid of going to school. He was lucky that his parents understood the need for a good school and sent him to the Oral School for Deaf Children in Kolkata.

After the interactive session, it was time to begin writing the essays. Silence descended in the two adjacent classrooms as hands got busy and minds got thinking. Having come well prepared, most participants finished their essays much ahead of the allotted time of one hour. Certificates were distributed to all participants because through the morning all of them had turned into little “Friends of VAANI”. With the promise to keep in touch, the participants bid goodbye as the wait for the results began.

VAANI, Deaf Children’s Foundation, is looking to give visibility to this ‘invisible’ handicap through a ‘children for children’ approach and is thankful to the schools that participated in making this effort successful.

Participating Schools:

Akshar School, Apeejay School Park Street, Bhawanipur Gujarati Education Society School, Bhavan’s Gangabux Kanoria Vidyamandir, Delhi Public School Megacity, Delhi Public School Newtown, Gokhale Memorial Girls’ School, Julien Day School, La Martiniere for Girls, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, Modern High School for Girls, Our Lady Queen of the Missions School, Shri Shikshatayan School and Sushila Birla Girl’s School.

  • The results will be declared by mid-January 2012
  • The three winning essays will be published in The Telegraph in Schools (TTIS)
  • Excerpts from the Top 10 essays will also be published in The Telegraph in Schools
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