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By , September 12, 2009 1:10 am

It was the beginning of the 1990’s still there were no attempts at setting up organised and professional formal education and rehabilitation services for children and young people with disabilities, especially for the blind in the Khasi and Jaintia areas of Meghalaya. Commendable work in this field had already taken off in the Garo Hills, Tura by 1988. The schools for the deaf and for the blind and integrated programmes were initiated and maintained by an NGO – the Bethany Society under the leadership of Sr. Rosario Lopez in consultation with Br. John Baptist an expert in the field belonging to the Montfort Brothers Community.

In Shillong, an individual Dr. (Mrs) J.B. Basaiawmoit, specialist in ophthalmology went out of her line of work in empathising with the needs and Rights of those whose visual conditions are beyond medical intervention. Under her, the Society of Promotion for Eye Care and Sight (SPECS) was set up in 1993. One of its concerns was the establishment of the first school for the Visually Impaired in this part of the State. By this time she had sought the guidance of Sr. Lopez from Tura.

The school was set up in 1993 but in a very short while it was taken under the wings of Bethany Society since SPECS could not tap necessary funds. The handing over was a turning point in the history of services for the disabled in Meghalaya and Bethany Society then had the resources experience trained man power and potentially better sources for raising funds.

The school was earlier named as Integrated Educational Centre for the Visually Impaired. In 1996 the name was change to Jyoti Sroat School for the Visually Impaired (JSS) since it functioned as a special school for such children. Jyoti Sroat means “source of light” in Sanskrit language. The school started its services in a borrowed dhobi house belonging to St. Edmund’s School, Shillong of the Christian Brothers. Later the latter donated the land where the building stood to the Bethany Society which, subsequently with the aid of Government of Spain constructed three buildings on the site. One of the buildings is used by the school and the other two by the Divine Flame Hostels, Bethany Society. The hostels accommodate only 120 children and young people of a cross disability nature studying in the campus.

Thus JSS remained a special school with an enrolment of 70-80 till 2005. By now education for Children With Special Needs (CWSN) had long since taken a turn for the broader world of an inclusive nature. As opposed to residential schooling, CWSN remained in their own home and communities whilst attending their local schools. This is main streaming of education for CWSN. It provides opportunities for CWSN to excess learning and schooling along with other children at a larger scale.

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