ICMH was founded in the year 1953 by an eminent Psychiatrist, Dr. K. R. Masani, who believed that disturbed persons could be helped through counseling devoid of the use of drugs. ICMH concentrated on helping any person who was so disturbed, over the first three decades. It was in the 1990s that a focus on activities was obtained. With the kind intervention and auspices of the British High Commission and British Airways, we were able to secure land in Nerul (Navi Mumbai) where a school building was constructed. It was decided to streamline the activity and run a special school for Intellectually Disabled children. However, at that time, there was also a need to accommodate hearing- impaired children and as such, we commenced our services for these disabilities.
Day Care Centers were also started at Nerul (Navi Mumbai) and Mulund (a north-eastern suburb of Mumbai). After a few years, the children at the Vashi Center had to be transferred to the School at Nerul as the owners of the property required the space for their own purposes. At Mulund, there was a population explosion as this suburb became a prime residential location. As there were no reputed special schools between Ghatkopar and Thane, the demand for special school services fell upon us. We were able to persuade the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai to give us four rooms at the Municipal School in Mulund West. We recognized that the demand outstripped the available space and therefore, partitioned the rooms so as to create additional classrooms. At Nerul, progress was smooth and the student strength grew steadily. As a result, we constructed an additional floor so that more students could be enrolled.
Being a forward looking and realistic Board of Trustees, we decided to subsidize fees, due to the financial limitations of parents; we introduced dynamic and newly developed therapies, free, in the best interests of the children. We pioneered Animal Assisted Therapy and Arts Becomes Therapy, both of which have yielded excellent results creating milestones in our progress and growth. We brought in occupational therapists, counselors and speech therapists to complement the academic and physical pursuits at the Schools. Also, we have regular yoga sessions and sports and cultural activities are encouraged. A Vocational Center has been set up so as to give children over sixteen years of age an opportunity to learn a trade in the hope that someday, they may be able to earn a living, get a job and be a part of society. We have ensured that teaching staff is adequately qualified and registered (as mandatory) with the Rehabilitation Council of India and created curricula suitable for the disabilities handled by us.
In time, infrastructural limitations re-emerged. At Mulund, we were able to get two more rooms. At Nerul, a second floor was constructed. From modest beginnings at both locations, we were presently catering to the special needs of 89 Intellectually Disabled children at Nerul. At Mulund, we had 75 Intellectually Disabled children and here too, there were two shifts through which we managed. Here, we had twenty autistic children.
At Nerul, we have a well-equipped Vocational Center where children over eighteen years of age are taught a trade in the hope that they can earn a living for themselves at some stage and become a part of society. Computer education is imparted to as many children who have capacity to learn. It is most heartening to note that a huge number of Intellectually Disabled children are keenly interested to learn. Our first batch of hearing- impaired children from Nerul School passed the Secondary School Certificate Examination years ago and we are proud to state that all students are pursuing further studies and/or involved in job-oriented activities. It is a matter of pride to report that one of these students enrolled for M.Com classes.
The Municipal Corporation of Navi Mumbai started a special school with emphasis on hearing impairment. At that time many of our teachers shifted due to better emoluments and job security and children moved away as education books, transport and uniforms were being offered free. The Trustees debated this thoroughly and finally announced the closure of the Hearing Impaired Section, giving the concerned parents notice of one year to make alternative arrangements.
Our management style is very professional. Our systems and procedures are governed by ISO 9001: 2015, certification to which we adhere very carefully so that our transparency is always assured. Coupled with this, we are also one of the first eight NGOs to have been certified by the Credibility Alliance of India for excellence in governance. The scenario in Mulund was bleak. We had just a few rooms but a 'full house' of students and an active waiting list. We had been prioritizing our need to replicate our successes in Nerul by constructing our own property in Mulund. However, we are an independently run NGO (where even the Trustees are not related) and receive no grants. We depend entirely on sympathetic and empathic donors who have been helping a noble cause and are in constant search of new potential donors. In times of acute inflation, we had managed, under tremendous strain, to keep the fees structure as low as possible.
Currently, we are charging a mere Rs. 6000.00 a month exclusive of all therapies which may be required depending on need of student compared to other schools with limited facilities that charge more than double. Yet, we have recognized the need to raise the remuneration of our teaching staff as they are the backbone of our activities. Administrative and office matters are handled by a skeleton staff whereas we have never tried to load classrooms with more than seven students per teacher in accordance with existing norms for special schools. Currently, we find that the annual cost per child adds up more whereas the income from tuition fees merely yields Rs. 72000.00), the remained has to be generated through donations. It must also be stated that nearly 70 percent of our expenditure accounts for salaries for our teachers, consultants, therapists and staff.
With the advent of Covid 19 virus both the Schools had to be abruptly closed and even after a period of nearly two years, we have not been able to reopen in normal circumstances. As the Nerul School premises our owned by ICMH, we have no major problem. However, Mulund School is run on the premises of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation School Building where we have been provided with six rooms on rent. Our positive attitude made us paid annual rent for the last two years even though no income has been forthcoming from Tuition Fees or sympathetic donors.
In these circumstances The Board of Trustees, after several long debates, took a decision to shut the Mulund School effective March 2022 when the next annual payment of rent is due. This decision took into consideration the fact that the parents were generally non co-operative and refused on several occasion over the years for increased fees. During the lockdown they did not co-operate for online sessions stating that they could not afford it. It is also established over the years that whereas our Nerul School was expanding its activities and successfully making achievements by even sending students for Pratham Levels, Std X and XII with success whereas Mulund School showed little or no progress at all. With all these factors, the Trustees felt further financial investments were not worthwhile. ICMH is run by a Board of Trustees in accordance with the Objects of the Trust. Our Life Members are permitted to elect up to eleven Trustees who may offer themselves for honorary service. Currently, after the last election process, the Trustees are as follows:
It must be noted that all the Trustees are thorough professionals and not related to each other. Our primary concern is total transparency of all operations, striving for excellence in governance and ensuring that the special children under our care are looked after to the best of our ability. Towards this, each member of Team ICMH has specific individual duties and responsibilities towards the achievement of the Organizational goals and aspirations.
Honorary Managing Trustee & Vice Chairman