Sucheta Kriplani Shiksha Niketan, a senior secondary, co-educational residential school established in 1991, is home for just over 550 physically challenged children and approximately 50 fully able day scholars. Although the boys and girls study together, they have their own separate boarding facilities.
In 2001, 29 disabled girl-students were inducted into SKSN for the first time. Today, this number has risen to 146, with many of them attending school for the first time.Both, boarding and educational facilities are provided free of charge.
This picture shows the children with the original 5 classroom school building.
How SKSN Started
Dr Bhairoon Singh Bhati started SKSN in 1991. While attending a village wedding in 1990, he noticed that a physically challenged man was constantly being chased away by the elders, and was being prevented from joining in the wedding celebrations. When Dr Bhati asked him who he was, and why this kind of treatment was being meted out to him, the sad-looking man replied ‘I am the bride’s uncle, but I’m not being allowed to take part in the wedding ceremonies because of my ugly disability. My family doesn’t think that I fit in with the community. They say that my presence will ruin the wedding, and bring a bad omen to the newly married couple’. Appalled at listening to such a devastating account, the statement gave birth to Dr Bhati’s goal to provide every single disabled child from the State of Rajasthan with an education. Hence, the school began its life with about 20 disabled children being taught under a tree.
When SKSN was registered as a Trust in 1997, Dr Bhati, joined the school as Secretary. Armed with an MA and Ph.D. in Sociology, his dream was to turn these children with disabilities into self-sufficient citizens of the world, who would not be dependent on their families for their livelihoods. And he has been doing just that, while holding the reins as Secretary.
Sneh has been actively and passionately involved with SKSN since 1998. This unique school first came to her attention in 1996, when she was researching a prestigious 2-part documentary series for UK's BBC Television. SKSN was filmed for the programs, which were produced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Indian Independence.
Sneh's prime responsibility as President of SKSN involves broadening this rural boarding school's horizons. This entails forging alliances with individuals and organizations that share her vision of putting the SKSN ethos - a center of excellence for the physically disabled - on the world map. In 2001, she was instrumental in introducing rural girl students with disabilities into the school, which until then, only provided schooling for boys; she strongly believes in disabled girls having the same rights to an education as their able-bodied counterparts. Today, SKSN accommodates almost 250 underprivileged boys and girls with disabilities, who would otherwise be deprived of an education.
Sneh helps to take all SKSN’s students from ‘Childhood to Livelihood’!
Polio is one of the main culprits for the majority of the students’ disabilities, but there are a few amputees included as well. School admissions are prioritised on the basis of those who are most severely handicapped, irrespective of their caste and creed. SKSN has 161 students in the 5-10 year age group, 170 in the 11-15 ranges, 161 students from the 16-18 groups and there are 54 students over the age of 18 years.
Read the story of one of the SKSN girls who joined the school in 2001 - Raj Kanwar
<link to Raj Kanwar’s story>
Most of the SKSN children come from families who are extremely dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. With the region being highly prone to an erratic and deficit level of rainfall, the farmers can only reap a single, yearly crop – should they be that lucky. This being the case, many of the SKSN students would surely be deprived of an education, if their parents had to pay for the children’s education.
Apart from the climatic element, many of the rural schools are located at too great a distance from the disabled child’s home. A physically challenged child simply would not be able to endure a walk of 3-8 kilometers, twice a day, and that too, through a very sandy terrain. This is yet another strong reason why they would completely miss out on any kind of an educational life, if they were not at SKSN.
SKSN is situated in the rural depths of Western Rajasthan, and on the fringes of the great Thar Desert. It’s located 28 kms from Jodhpur city, a place known as the ‘blue’ city of this bone-dry, yet majestic state. Records show that over the last hundred years, seventy of them were plagued with a scarcity of monsoon rains leading to severe droughts and famines. See Working in Rajasthan < Working in Rajasthan> for more details.
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