Friends who inspire and lead in the promotion of inclusion in Bangalore

This students on the MA in Special and Inclusive Education in Bangalore are coming to the end of their studies. This course would never have been developed without the inspiration of two outstanding Indian teachers

These students on the MA in Special and Inclusive Education in Bangalore are coming to the end of their studies. This course would never have been developed without the inspiration of two outstanding Indian teachers

Two people more than any others are responsible for my being here in Bangalore. Both have been a constant source of encouragement and friendship in my work here and in my efforts to understand more about the country.

As is often the case in life, a chance meeting with an individual, in this instance at a conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA in 1996, was instrumental in promoting discussions and debate that led to a first visit to India. The American conference was a great disappointment as it largely comprised of self-congratulatory education policy makers and school principals who believed that they had discovered the answer to providing quality schooling, though few were doing so for all children in their areas. Whilst they all seemed to have the answers, I was never clear about what the questions were. At various times during the conference I noted an Indian gentleman would confront the speakers, often on matters related to values and the principles of understanding the teacher and student relationship. These questions often challenged my own thinking, but seemed to be brushed aside by many of the conference delegates. I suppose that if you are secure in the belief that you have all of the answers – even if you don’t know what the questions are, you have no further need for either thinking or discussion.

Inevitably I found myself drawn to this would be interrogator of ideas and sought him out for further debate. I soon discovered that this interesting character, Satish Inamdar, came from an educational tradition and background far removed from my own, but from which I was sure I could learn. Satish, who is the Director of the Valley School near Bangalore has since that day been a good friend. I have spent many happy days in the company of his family and interacting with teachers at the Valley School, and Sara and I have been very pleased to welcome Satish and his family into our home in England.

Dr Satish Inamdar, a good friend and a great encouragement of my efforts to learn about India

Dr Satish Inamdar, a good friend and a great encouragement of my efforts to learn about India

It was through Satish’s initiative that Sara and I found ourselves at the Valley School in 2000 when I was asked to provide input at a conference that he organised for teachers from across the area. It was at this event, which had a focus on understanding children’s rights and the importance of providing inclusive learning environments that Satish introduced me to the second great influence on the opportunities I have been privileged to enjoy here in India.

Jayashree Rajanahally was one of the driving forces behind the Valley conference and also organised a number of interactions with teachers during my visit in 2000. Her commitment to inclusion and her focus upon providing support for otherwise neglected children immediately commanded my attention and has continued to inspire my work. I have been fortunate to work with Jayashree and her colleagues at the Brindavan Centre here in Bangalore ever since that first meeting. In 2003 we worked together on the early plans for what has since become the MA in Special and Inclusive Education that we teach here with other colleagues from India and the UK.

Jayashree Rajanahally the leading influence behind the MA in Special and Inclusive Education in Bangalore

Jayashree Rajanahally the leading influence behind the MA in Special and Inclusive Education in Bangalore

Without the inspiration and commitment of these two good friends, the current provision that we are working together to sustain in Bangalore would never have been started. They remain as essential forces driving forward ideas and working for education in the area, and provide me with a great deal of inspiration whenever I am here working in India. If the promotion of inclusion in Bangalore is to be sustained, it will be largely dependent upon the leadership of Jayashree and Satish and others with their level of commitment.

Satish and Jayashree are great colleagues and both, along with their families have become good friends of Sara and myself. They are two unique and very different characters who have many shared beliefs, though they take radically different approaches towards the development of a more equitable education system. The tensions between their ideas can be a positive influence upon the development of inclusive education in Bangalore. If they were to work together there is no limit to what might be achieved. They continue to be a vital source of advice whenever I am working on projects in India and it is their vision that has enabled progress in the training of teachers who work with children with special educational needs to be made.