Since April, the National Association of Blind has been struggling to pay its 100-odd staff members. Since the education support it provides to over 300 disabled children is free of cost, it is dependent on external support.
With individual donations and corporate contributions drying up amid the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown, an institution that has supported the education of visually impaired children in Delhi for decades is on its last legs.
Since April, the National Association of Blind has been struggling to pay its 100-odd staff members. Since the education support it provides to over 300 disabled children is free of cost, it is dependent on external support. However, the pandemic and lockdown have dealt a heavy blow to the charitable organisation.
“We try to cover most of our expenses, around 60-70%, with corporate contribution which comes in the form of CSR funds. But with the Covid situation, we have seen this completely disappear, including with corporates who had active MoUs with us. Around seven corporates turned us away saying that their CSR allocations are now going towards Covid. Individuals are obviously hard hit. In any case their contributions would be sporadic — along the lines of sponsoring a meal. In a human resource centred effort such as this, we find ourselves unable to support our staff as we should,” said Nandita Saran, project coordinator at the association.
Normally, the centre is a meeting point for a variety of learning activities. Around 50 young children were being prepared for mainstream school through Braille and computer activities; it was an after-school education support centre for around 150 children in mainstream schools such as DPS RK Puram and Tagore International School, many of whom also stayed in a hostel at the centre; around 40 children and adults were being taught to use computers; and for around 80 visually impaired children with multiple disabilities, the centre was a daily school with therapy and special education. For these children, online learning has not been a part of their lockdown life.
“The situation has really hit the disability sector very hard, especially for the visually impaired. Everything is about touch, so how do we work with social distancing? Mainstream schools are now doing hours of online classes every day but that’s not possible for us. The children in the hostel were sent back to their villages — in Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. There will be a time when children will be back to school, we hope we’ll be able to keep standing till then,” said Saran.