A common myth about people with hearing and speaking disabilities not being as efficient at work as compared to others continues to persist in India. Anantapur and the surrounding villages are home to many children with such impairments. They are underprivileged, and have little access to education and sports facilities, vital holistic growth elements for children.
As per the Indian 2001 census, the total population with disabilities in of Andhra Pradesh is 13, 64,981. Of these 10, 50,400 (76.95 %) lived in rural areas . Rural Development Trust (RDT) understood the need to help transform the lives of these people, especially children. RDT strides towards discovering the innate potential of children with hearing and speaking impairments, one such intervention has been to setup a center by the name of High School for Hearing Impaired Children as part of the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) project at Bukkarayasamudram Village, Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. The children are under the supervision of qualified teachers to pursue their education at the school. Moreover, RDT included cricket as a tool to encourage the children to overcome their inhibitions. This program is run under the guidance of Mr. Sagar Chowdary, a cricket coach by profession, who is assisted by a Physical Education (PE) teacher.
Societal context made the students believe that they were disadvantaged due to their disabilities and could achieve little in life. This perception vanished since RDT has intervened to introduce cricket to their learning curriculum to transform their attitudes and approach towards life. It not only helped them develop physical traits but also garner confidence, leadership and team work.
The school has close to 240 students, most of whom are involved in the cricket program. The initial success of cricket encouraged students, who previously restricted themselves to the four walls of the classroom, to participate in other sports like football, volleyball, basketball, and athletics.
Training a group of students with speech and hearing impairments, initially seemed like an uphill task for Mr. Sagar who took on the responsibility of head coach of the center. That however changed in less than 3 months after familiarizing himself with the method of teaching these differently abled children. “Every child I have been training is talented and has the potential to bat like Rahul Dravid, but unfortunately, they go unnoticed” says proud coach Mr. Sagar Chowdary.
Their many achievements such as winning the Coca-Cola Cricket School Championship, the Anantha Premier League in 2014 as well as the Rural Cricket Tournament in 2009 and 2014 against teams with abled-body participants speaks of the dedication and commitment that these kids have put in to their training.
RDT recognizes that unified sport is another major breakthrough that brought the differently abled children closer together. It allowed children with impairments to mingle with able-bodied children, doing away with their self-consciousness. Finally, the inclusion of cricket in the teaching curriculum has helped the children perform better in their academics and as a result, most of the students want to pursue higher studies after completing high school. The growth of the children in all spheres is an indication of triumph over disability through sports. RDT has assisted them to recognize their talent, and with additional support these children are capable of scaling greater heights in the years to come.
[online] Available at: http://www.yorku.ca/drpi/files/IndiaCountryReport.pdf [Accessed 15 Jun. 2015].