How Kudumbashree’s BUDS institutes help children with intellectual disabilities – The News Minute

Kerala currently has 330 BUDS institutes with 11,092 students. Of these, 155 are schools and the remaining, rehabilitation centres.
As Kudumbashree – the largest network of women in Kerala for empowerment and poverty eradication – completes 25 years, TNM looks at some of their achievements.

When Sheeja became mother to a girl with intellectual disability, she was too young and naïve, afraid to send the child to a special school as she thought them unsafe. Up to Class 7, the child went to a regular school until the teachers advised Sheeja to consider a special school. Sheeja found Manovikas in Pathanamthitta, where after years of going every day, she was appointed a teacher. Manovikas became a BUDS institute in 2012 – one of the many run by the Local Self Government in Kerala, under the supervision of Kudumbashree, for children with intellectual or learning disabilities.
Kudumbashree is the largest network of women, numbering lakhs, formed 25 years ago in Kerala for poverty eradication and women empowerment. In its 25 years, Kudumbashree wrote many success stories, its involvement in the BUDS institutes being one of the most celebrated ones.
BUDS institutes are of two types – schools and rehabilitation centres. Sheeja is a teacher at a BUDS Rehabilitation Centre (BRC) in Pathanamthitta, which has more than 60 students. The BRCs are meant for those above 18 years of age, the training being more vocational in nature. The schools are for the younger ones, divided into sections as pre primary, primary, secondary, pre vocational and vocational.

“There are 330 BUDS institutes in Kerala now, with 11,092 students. Of these, 155 are schools and the remaining, BRCs,” says Arun Rajan, state project manager of BUDS.
Kudumbashree’s role is to finance the institutes, arrange buses for the schools, train teachers and ayahs (helpers) and so on. “We give vocational training in several areas, getting the students to make stationery products among others. At least 162 organisations were started for these students to sell their products. It also helps some of the parents who need to accompany the students at all times and therefore do not have another source of income,” Arun says.
The schools follow a curriculum prescribed by the SCERT (State Council of Educational Research and Training). Eight textbooks on various subjects are prescribed.

“As part of early intervention, kids under the age of six are given therapies. Classes begin for older students. Until now, the institutes functioned under the Education department. Now the government is moving it under the Social Justice Department. But the Education department will also be involved, to take care of midday meals etc,” says Sreekala, a teacher at a BUDS school in Kothamangalam.
The schools and BRCs underwent a lot of changes in the last 20 years, since their conception. Sheeja remembers how when she began they had just 10 plastic chairs and no school bus. She and other teachers would ask ward members about children with intellectual disabilities in their areas. “We’d visit these houses, and talk to the parents. Many of the parents were like how I used to be, scared about sending their kids to special schools. I’d share my experience, talk to them about scholarships and other benefits. Now we have more than 60 students,” Sheeja says.
She proudly speaks of the changes she has witnessed in her students. How Rahul J, though talented was little equipped to do anything about it until he was trained at BUDS in dancing and drawing, eventually won the Ujwala Balya Puraskaram for his skills in arts at 18 years. How Nidheesh, a boy with cerebral palsy, ended up with a vocation selling medicine covers to shops and selling lottery tickets on his tri-scooter. Kavya Raj is another talented girl who paints and dances so well she has won many awards for it.

There have been changes on other fronts too – a school bus for every institute, the mid-day meals and so on.
A problem that BUDS institutes faces is in meeting the ratio of teachers to students, says Sreekala. New government guidelines raised the salaries of the teachers to more than Rs 32,000 a month, and this has led to the panchayats hiring fewer teachers in schools to meet the expenses. “We need at least 1:8 (teacher to student) ratio and 1:15 (helper to student) ratio. We also need therapists doing physio or speech therapies for the children. The panchayat which funds the institutes might not always be able to meet all this,” she says.
Read from archive: The closure of BUDS schools due to COVID-19 is affecting disabled students in Kerala
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