As Dr Bhuvana Vasudevan, a special educator in Puducherry enters her classroom at Bridges Learning Vidyalaya, children there largely with dyslexia and autism radiate with joy and happiness. Some clap, some hug her and some say, 'Good morning, Madam'.
It's a demanding job as these children with special needs take a longer time to learn. It requires patience and persistence. But Dr Bhuvana is passionate. With a good mix of chalk and talk methods and other approaches she adopts different techniques for different kids.
In the 90s she gave up her lucrative job with corporates and Kendriya Vidyalaya, to set up her own Bridges Learning Vidyalaya and make a difference to the lives of children with special needs. In fact, parents of a child who benefitted from her teaching offered her their place to start the school. She has transformed lives of more than 6,000 children with special needs over the last three decades since 1995.
"I never used to complain to the parent that your child isn't doing well or not studying. We know the child has a problem and we only have to find a solution and make him or her go to the next level. That should be the role of a teacher," says Dr Bhuvana, the founder of the school.
In class XII we met Kasi Prasad, an autistic child who took an active part as Dr Bhuvana taught. His mother S Vijayalakshmi painfully recollected how the previous regular school he studied in, showed him the door as he did not measure up to their expectations. Now after seven years under Dr Bhuvana's care at Bridges he's all set to join college. Kasi has taken Business Mathematics in higher secondary. He wants to become a business tycoon like Mr Mukesh Ambani.
When asked what steps he plans to take to realise his dream to become like the boss of Reliance, Kasi added "I'd take a series of steps including planning, organising, directing, controlling, motivating, staffing and coordinating".
On his progress over the years his mother said, “When we go out, he behaves like a normal child. We see a good change in him.”
In a quiet posh residential area in the former French colony, 22-year-old Al Mubeen's parents never expected their child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) would pass class X. He could neither write nor read at the school he studied earlier. But nine years of schooling by Dr Bhuvana changed everything. Now he's pursuing his MBA at a central university after cracking an all-India entrance test. Now he plans to go abroad to work. On what made a difference, Al Mubeen said, "For every person she teaches in a different way. So that's how as a student I managed to become what I am today."
Putting Dr Bhuvana's model in a nutshell, his mother Noorul Arafath said, "They teach children with special needs so well. They take good care and uplift them."
Not far away, another alumnus Vigneswaran's family is also happy. For the dyslexic child with a low self-esteem a decade ago, Dr Bhuvana's school turned into a springboard. After finishing class X from Bridges, he earned a diploma, worked for a few years and turned into an innovator. Now he's finishing his B Tech. He has even designed a contactless vessel cleaning machine for restaurants as part of his college project.
On what Ms Bhuvana means to him, Vigneswaran turns emotional and says, "My Bhuvana mam is next to my mom. She developed my confidence level. My long term career plan is to become an industrialist, finding solutions to problems."
P Subbarayan, his father and an engineer working for Puducherry Government added with folded hands, "I can't believe when I compare the way he was in class VIII and the way he is now. He handles computer software now. All this is because of Bhuvana madam only. We thank her.”
A bulk of her students are from less privileged backgrounds and Dr Bhuvana collects no fee from them. She plans to digitise her classrooms so children with special needs could be engaged even better with technology.
"We are in need of fifteen lakh rupees for this. This would be a boon for these children as we would be able to teach them even more effectively with multi- dimensional teaching and audio-visual methods. Computers would equip us to train students in areas like data entry and hotel management related vocational opportunities ".
Those who would like to help her may transfer funds to her account:
Pondicherry Dyslexia Association
A/c no: 087109000198457
City Union Bank, Pondicherry
Although there are no scientific numbers yet, experts say 15 to 17 percent of children may have special needs for education in varying degrees. A bulk of them are from poor backgrounds. There is also a dearth of qualified and committed teachers. Amid these challenges Dr Bhuvana Vasudevan stands tall as a beacon of hope.