The Okhla Centre School for Special Children started as a small school under the banner of the the Delhi Society for the Welfare of Mentally Retarded Children in 1964-65.The B-ed Department of Lady Irwin College was closely associated with the School, as their trainee teachers were sent for their practical training sessions to the DSWMRC School. The School, known at the time as Amrit Kaur Bal Vihar, was on the premises of the AIWC at No.6, Bhagwan Das Road. There were three small classrooms & a little office space for the Principal. The students had the use of the front lawn & a playground at the side of the main entrance.
My association with the Amrit Kaur Bal Vihar began in 1967, when as a trainee teacher in Special Education, I started visiting the school for practice teaching sessions.Mrs. Adrienne Jackson and her husband Mr. Peter Jackson who was the head of Reuters,’ had a mentally challenged child with Downs’ Syndrome. His name was David Jackson and he was amongst the first students of the School.She was very involved with the School from its’ nascent stage.The first principal was Mrs. Afzal Friese who held the same office when the School moved its’ premises to Okhla.
In 1968, I met Mrs. Yasho Karan Singh when she came for the first time to the school. So impressed was she by the work done there that she started coming regularly & in time got to know the staff & students really well. The field of Special Education was new in India & there was an urgent need for schools for the mentally
challenged children in Delhi. Mrs. Yasho Karan Singh visited the school two or three times a week & would often bring visitors to the school to, “show off”, the talents of the pupils.
Her special favourite was a young girl called Sunita who was a wizard at jigsaw puzzles. I remember that on one occasion she ‘dared’ a visitor she had brought along to piece together a rather large & intimidating jigsaw puzzle. The visitor tried & failed & much to Mrs. Yasho Karan Singh’s delight Sunita completed the jigsaw in a matter of minutes!
In those early years, the school it seems was waiting for a person with a vision & a passion to mould it into a model institution & Mrs. Yasho Karan Singh fitted this role perfectly.
Bringing together a board of dedicated teachers, doctors, social workers & parents of special children, Mrs. Yasho Karan Singh became the President for life of ‘the Delhi Society for the Welfare of Special Children’ when the school moved its premises to the present location at Okhla Marg.
The school building came up first, and then a first storey was added to the building. Later, another building came up on the campus with a Diagnostic Clinic, a Counselling Centre for Parents, a Library & a Teachers’ Training Institute. A Physiotherapy Unit, a Speech Therapy Unit & an Occupational Therapy Department were also created in the school building, as also a Vocational Training Centre for students above 18 years of age. Mrs. Yasho Karan Singh, steered her vessel through good weather & bad with a steady but gentle hand. She gave the project an excellent start and we aim to carry her vision forward.
Recently, a school ramp has been built, a new Respite Centre for children with severe behavioural problems & a Flyers Early Intervention programme has been established. In the Teachers Training Institute we are well on our way to introducing new courses. The Clinic-Physiotherapy-Speech Therapy- Audio department equipment has been replaced &upgraded & their rooms refurbished. The classrooms, bathrooms & their furniture too have undergone extensive detailed renovations. A library, a recreational-yoga-dance hall & computer rooms has been added. Constant attention is being given to the school curriculum & the extra-curricular activities being followed.
After Mrs.Yasho Karan Singh’s passing away in 2009, her daughter-in-law Mrs. Chitrangada Raje Singh was entrusted with the responsibility of managing the Society, which she does in the capacity of a Vice-President. With the help of Patrons who have been the backbone of the improvements possible in the Society this Institution continues its’ work.
Forty five years on, we look back and see how far we have come. As a tribute to a great lady, we, here at Okhla, endeavour to carry on from where she left off.