India’s Only University for Disabled Students Soon to Get Central University Status

Around 1,500 students are currently studying at the Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University that offers courses in Social Work, Music, Fine Arts and other courses.

Enthusiastic teachers, innovative teaching methods and keen students at JRHU offer a great deal of life lessons for the more privileged

There is nothing unusual in a teacher standing in front of a classroom lecturing eager students. But Manish Kumar’s classroom is slightly different. This visually impaired teacher stands with great pride, while delivering a lecture to his students, all of whom are visually and physically challenged, in a university which is specifically for the less-abled.

Located in Chitrakoot, the Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University, or JRHU for short, is a living embodiment of just what the less-abled can do if given a chance. In fact, the ‘can do’ attitude of the staff here has impressed the government and the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar is considering granting it Central University status soon.

Kumar is a good example of this ‘can do’ attitude. He is just 28, but his work gives hope to his students that they too can become a somebody, someday. His unique teaching method is something that sighted or ‘normal’ teachers could possibly learn from.

“I use various teaching methods. I am a visually disabled person, I cannot write on the blackboard. So, I make use of the projector to teach a particular concept that needs details. I also use audio mediums to connect with the visually disabled,” he says.

Kumar is not alone. Many other teachers (some of whom are challenged) come to work daily. Students here are just as keen, some of whom have come from far-flung villages in UP, and even neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, to learn. School staffers here say that currently there are 1,500 students learning from a choice of 15 courses offered here.

Apart from the regular B.Ed degree, some of the courses include Social Work, Music, Fine Arts and other special training courses. Teachers say that those who have hearing disabilities opt for courses in Fine Arts and Computers, while the visually disabled choose courses like Music. The B.Ed is, of course, common to all students.

How different is it to teach the physically challenged as compared to ‘normal’ students? Gopal Mishra, a professor who teaches Music at this university says “When you teach students with a disability you have to be extra-sensitive to understand their feelings. In short, you need to be completely involved with them. In my case, when I teach visually disabled students, they can only hear me, so if my tone changes, they assume I am getting angry with them. I have to constantly reassure them that this is not the case”.

Most of the students live on-campus. There are two hostels — one for boys and one for girls. And despite their individual challenges these students find solace in helping each other. Botla Yadav, a 19-year-old physically challenged student can vouch for that. “I am from Badhoni village in UP, and I am pursuing my BA here. I have made good friends in the hostel and they help me in moving around the campus,” shares Yadav, as she casually walks around the campus with her two friends.

Basic facilities like tri-cycles, hearing aids, and other amenities are provided to the students free of cost. Faculty members feel there is still a lot of scope for improvement. “We can expect better things if the university gets Central University status,” Mishra says.

And Mishra’s wish just might be coming true soon. A team of University Grants Commission (UGC) officials visited the university early in November to review the facilities for granting Central University status to the institution. Commenting on the visit, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said. “A team of UGC officials visited the Campus and had given me a positive feedback on the university. I am also positive that we can grant it Central University status soon.”

By: KRITIKA SHARMA Chitrakoot, UP , DNA

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