Special Effort, for Special Kids
Gopinath Mavinkurve 05 September 2013

An educationist and social activist started a mission to help people overcome poverty through education when she was in her 80s. Gopinath Mavinkurve writes about this gritty effort

Rukmabai Tallur, fondly known as ‘ Rukmakka’, embarked on a mission on India’s Republic Day, in 1986. She decided to set up Punyatama Prabhakar Sharma Seva Mandal (PPSSM) in the memory of her brother, a freedom fighter and social activist, who had devoted his entire life to helping the poor. Rukmakka was an activist herself, in the Gandhian tradition. She always wore khadi, led an austere life devoted to education and staunchly believed that spreading literacy would not only help improve the lives of the underprivileged, but also give them respect in society. Since 1940, she had been teaching Hindi at Mumbai’s Seva Sadan in the belief that knowledge of the rashtrabhasha would aid our freedom struggle.

PPSSM was started with 13 members who pooled Rs500 each. Rukmakka herself collected a corpus of Rs2 lakh in the very first year. Although an octogenarian when she established the trust, she went door-to-door collecting funds, clothes, books and uniforms. Even on her 100th birthday (on 8 January 2005), she donated the cash gifts that she received to PPSSM, to help tribal children with special needs. In April 2005, Rukmakka passed away and Shitala Pandit took up her dream project—to construct a residential school for special children.  

Ms Pandit had to overcome several obstacles, including rising costs. Two residential schools for the hearing-impaired and mentally-challenged underprivileged children began operations in dilapidated old premises on 7 October 2006. Construction of the school at Igatpuri (Maharashtra), began in February 2007 even before the entire funding was in place. Several donors pitched in and the school was formally inaugurated in July 2009. Today, they have 100 students and a range of facilities including a library and nursery, and rooms for first-aid, physiotherapy, IQ testing, specialised speech therapy and computers.

Interestingly, despite getting an ‘A Grade’ from Maharashtra’s Social Welfare Department, special schools, like the PPSSM’s, do not receive government aid. The monthly expenses of this residential school, including food, clothing, medicines and maintenance for over 100 special students aggregate over Rs2 lakh. PPSSM is funding the entire expenditure from the interest earned on its corpus. The teachers also get a nominal honorarium, instead of a salary. Naturally, PPSSM is constantly striving to increase the corpus to meet rising costs and needs.

What keeps the effort of PPSSM’s committed teachers alive is the fruit of this dedication. In 2012, Nilesh Navle scored 86% in the school leaving examinations and joined an ITI where he stood second amongst normal students. In 2013, Vijay Ghorpade scored 69% in his SSLC examination and went on to obtain an electrical engineering diploma.
Dhanashree Pawar scored 71% and chose to specialise in fashion designing. Several students have also won prizes in inter-school competitions. These achievements are published on PPSSM’s website. The teachers, including the principal, Naval Sonar, have also received well-deserved honours and felicitations.  

PPSSM hopes to be able to adopt many more children and help shape their future through education. It is working to build an independent corpus for three separate schemes, so that the work can be sustained with the interest earned. The Shikshan Prabandh, at Rs5,000 per student, takes care of uniforms, books and stationery for one child per year. Anna Prabandh, covers the food expenses for one child for an entire year at Rs6,000; and Shikshak Nidhi, at Rs5,000, supports the corpus from which honorarium is paid to teachers.

PPSSM has not only given these differently-abled children the chance to become self-sufficient but helped make their dreams come true. Donations to PPSSM are eligible for exemption under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act.

Shitala Pandit
9-11/12, Saraswat Colony,
Santa Cruz (West),
Mumbai 400 054
Tel 022 2660 1837
E-mail [email protected].  

Free Helpline
Legal Credit