It was raining heavily on August 16, 1981, when the Lokvishwas Pratishthan’s  School for speech and hearing impaired was inaugurated. Inspite of bad weather, people had turned up in large numbers. Encouraged by the words read in a newspaper, they had come forward to help build this school. Their dream was now a reality.

Back then, the Editor-in-Chief of the Marathi daily Gomantak, Shri Narayan Athawalay, was touched by the experiences of a visually impaired youth from Goa, who studied and lived in Pune, as there was no school in Goa for children with special needs. He lamented that while he found help in the streets of Mumbai or Pune, he found no such help in Goa.

Shri Athawaley also met the father of a deaf child, who told him that Goa needed a school for children with special needs. The man had sent his wife to Pune to be trained, so that she could teach their son at home. Convinced about the seriousness of the issue, Shri Athawaley set about the difficult task of persuading the people of Goa of the need for a school for children with special needs. He wrote an editorial,suggesting that Goans come forward to help setting up the school.

Gomantak’s office was inundated with phone calls by people who desired to help. Letters and cheques poured in. People met him to give him money. Shri Athawaleywrote many more articles about the subject. After a few months, in a meeting at his house with a few prominent Goan citizens and parents of speech and hearing impaired, a trust-Lokvishwas Pratishthan, was set up. Today, the school has completed almost four decades of its functioning and also has a school for the visually impaired and Intellectually Disabled (Special Children). There is also a vocational centre and a teacher’s training centre.

People also came forth to help run the school. A barber’s assistant, whose speech and hearing impaired son studied in Pune, handed Shri Athawaley 25 paise everyday. The owner of a local hotel provided rice for one year. Many others provided furniture. And so on…

Initially the school was run in a rented house. But then, the ShantadurgaDevasthan Trust at Kavale gave the school a plot which the temple owned. The foundation stone laying ceremony of Lokvishwas Pratishthan’s ‘Shri ShantadurgaKrupashram’ complex took place in the presence of His Holiness, Swami of the Kavale math. Today the complex has a separate school building for the mentally challenged, residential school for the visually impaired and the speech and hearing impaired. The LokvishwasPratishthan’s School has twice won the state government’s award for the best Non-Governmental Organisation in the state of Goa.

On August 16, 2009, a branch of the special school for the Intellectually Disabled was opened at Mokhard, Canacona. This was followed by a Special school at Quepem and Valpoi (later shifted to Honda) in 2011,  Day Care Centre at Dhavali in 2012,  Higher Secondary School at Dhavali (Ponda) in 2014 and a Special School at Marcel in 2014 special school at Mollem in 2016.

Lokvishwas Pratishthan’s Schools are a fitting tribute to the changes good journalism can bring about in our society. The strength of Lokvishwas Pratishthan’s Schools lies in the fact that they are schools set up by people from all walks of life.

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