Bangalore Mirror: TUNBRIDGE: A 50-YEAR-OLD SPECIAL STARTUP


One of the few elite schools to have a no-donation policy which also welcomes special children turns 50 Twenty-one-year-old Shreyas Nagaraj remembers his time at Tunbridge High School with fondness during the school's golden jubilee celebration on Saturday. After all, it was this school that welcomed visually-impaired Shreyas with open arms after several schools turned him down, and gave him the opportunity to study along with normal children without being discriminated against. He did 13 years of schooling at Tunbridge, starting at LKG when he was four years old and completing his SSLC in Tunbridge High School. Currently, studying BA in St Joseph's Arts and Science College, Shreyas is all praise for his alma mater and said that the school never made him feel as if he had any disability. "I had the opportunity to study and play along with normal children. During my schooldays, I never felt like I was suffering from blindness. I felt part of the mainstream world. It is because of this school that I'm what I am today. If it hadn't been for this school, I might have felt weak and discriminated," says Shreyas proudly. The school on Infantry Road, too, takes immense pride in enrolling children with disability to study alongside normal children and giving them a chance to be part of the mainstream world. Ever since 1996, the school has seen around 12 disabled children passing out of the school and making a name for themselves in the world. Heeru Chandnani is one of them. Blind since birth, she was the first disabled person to be enrolled in the school, and later became the first such person to take up the ICSE examination in the country. She also became the first visually-impaired person to clear the Trinity College exam for her excellent piano skills. When no other school was ready accept her it was Tunbridge which opened the opportunity for Heeru. Principal Maureen Ojha says, "This is a school where we place the child first, giving them a strong belief in their self worth, and enabling them to achieve their potential. Where other schools lacked the courage to take in disabled children, Tunbridge welcomed them, placing them in the normal classroom and encouraging them to participate in co-curricular activities." The school has so far enrolled children with visual and hearing impairment and with muscular dystrophy have obtained a first class in the ICSE examinations and gone on to higher studies. In 2013, the school was granted the status of an Unaided Minority Educational Institution by the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions. Tunbridge High School Tunbridge High School was started in 1966, with just five children and a teacher; today the school has around 850 students studying under the shadow of humanity and wisdom. The school was opened as the Tunbridge English Nursery School on Infantry Road by Miss Mavis Ramsbotham who was the President of the Bengaluru Young Women's Christian Association. It was her vision to start a school for children across various social and financial background, following a strict 'no donation' policy without discrimination of caste, religion or community. A new class was added each year thereafter, until in 1984, the school was granted affiliation to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ICSE), New Delhi. Profiles Maureen Ojha (Principal)

The principal of the school, Maureen Ojha, was conferred the prestigious Derozio Award 2015 in recognition of her outstanding contribution in the field of education and human enrichment. The citation by the Council for the ICSE, New Delhi states that Ojha has encouraged students to participate in social work programmes for nation building. The Council's citation defines Maureen Ojha as "an exceptional and dynamic educator, an inspiration for many." Through her determination and dedication Tunbridge High School, Bangalore is recognised as an institution which provides quality education. The Derozio Awards have been instituted by the Council for ICSE, New Delhi, to honour and motivate people to serve the nation in a manner that clearly defines leadership in an identified sphere. Miss Mavis Ramsbotham (Founder) The founder of the school, Ms Mavis Ramsbotham, with her kindness and cheerful smile has made the school what it is. It was her courage and vision that saw the school opening its door to disabled children, and thus becoming the first school ion Bengaluru to offer integrated education. The school was also the first in the country to put up a visually impaired student for the ICSE examination. Ramsbotham has served in the capacity as founder for around seventeen years. Her policy of 'no donation' has continued to the present day. Started with five pupils, the school at present has strength of 850 students and 40 staff. Heeru Chandnani (Alumni) Heeru Chandnani was visually impaired since birth because of an undeveloped optical nerve. However, her parents made sure that she received a formal education in a mainstream school with normal children. When she reached school-going age, she was refused admission because of her disability. She says that most schools had no idea about the concept of integrated education and hence they refused her admission. Now, Heeru's life extends beyond studies and career. With a background in western classical music, she can sing in Hungarian, Welsh, Japanese, Korean, Italian, English, Latin and French (she also speaks French!). And that is not all: she also plays the piano, and participates in choir singing. Her passion for music has resulted in many awards being bestowed on her. She was the recipient of the National Association for the Blind's Neelum Khurshed Kanga Prize in 2003. She also became the first visually-impaired artist to accompany AR Rahman as part of the Fifth CavinKare Ability Awards which was held in Chennai. Heeru was also the first to take up the ICSE examination in the country and the first visually impaired to clear the Trinity College exam for her excellent piano skills.

Read this article on the Bangalore Mirror site

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