February 6 – ST LOUIS INSTITUTE IN CHENNAI
ST LOUIS INSTITUTE IN CHENNAI
The Institute for the deaf and the blind in Chennai was inaugurated on 6 February 1964 (See 28 January); it has kept growing, and the equipment has not ceased to improve. Today it houses 200 deaf people and nearly 100 blind people. Its success is due to the competent and stable staff: some lay teachers have taught there for 30 or ·so years; Br. Octavian, head teacher, has been there 18 years and initiated many improvements in the fields of study, sports and music.
General and vocational education go hand in hand at St Louis. The studies are so advanced that in 1993 it was possible to start a pre-university centre for deaf people and blind people, the first of its type in India. Among the crafts taught to the deaf, printing has kep_t growing. Today 20 or so deaf people stay on to work as printers after completing their studies. The orders· from outside placed with the Institute provide a livelihood for the young, who are admitted free of charge.
To illustrate the sporting achievements of the deaf, we will mention only two dates. In January 1991, during the 13th national sports meet of the deaf at Nagpur, the Institute’s students were awarded 10 gold medals, eight silver medals and four bronze medals, and two students were selected to represent India at the Silent Olympics in Sofia in 1993. From 12 to 17 January 1994 the 7th volleyball national champi.o_nship brought together a thousand deaf people from 14 States and 37 teams. StLouis students were awarded two of the six trophies.
It is especially in the musical field that the achievements of the blind students are to be found. In 1975 Br. Octavian, the then head teacher, considered creating St Louis Orchestra with former students of St Louis. It became so well-known that it is in great demand for performances in concert halls or to enhance a religious or civil ceremony in many Indian States, as well as in Singapore and Malaysia.
Finally let us point out that St Louis follows the same policy of openness initiated a few years earlier at the Institute for deaf people and blind people in Medellin (Colombia): the Institute puts its facilities at the disposal of the neighbouring population. In 1991 women and children were able to use the medical services: a general practitioner held surgery, dental care was provided, a nurse and an orthopaedic surgeon were available. Classes are held for 150 4-to-14-year-old children and about twenty older students. The young can be introduced to printing, shorthand, tailoring. In 1993 fifty women took classes in hygiene, health care, family planning… About 100 people receive vocational education and are then able to start their own businesses. In 1994, with aid from the government, orthopaedic devices and wheelchairs were given out free to spastics in Chennai and the surrounding areas.