The Society for the Education of the Challenged (Child and Adult) was founded by Fathema Ismail in 1958. Fathema’s concern for the physically handicapped came from her personal experience as the mother of a polio-affected child whom she wanted to rehabilitate medically and educationally. She was successful in her efforts as her daughter was able to lead a normal life.
Fathema Ismail began with a personal contribution of Rs. 40,000 to start the school. The school and her work progressed thereafter with the donations received from well-wishers.
SEC was initially housed in the army barracks opposite the Golwala Swimming Pool and later shifted to the Scout and Guide Hut at Dhobi Talao, Mumbai. The school continued there for 5 years. Every morning the furniture had to be arranged before the school began and rearranged in the evening for the scout/ guide activities. In 1963, the school was given recognition by the Bombay Municipal Corporation.
SEC started its first batch with thirteen students who were taught in either Marathi or Gujarati medium of instructions. Hindi was introduced as an additional medium in 1963 when the number of the students increased to twenty seven. Since the school was an innovative experiment, it took some time to recognize the good work that was being done. Initially, the Social Welfare Grant to the school would come with some delay which would create hurdles in payment of staff salaries and for providing various services.
Dr. Madhuri Sheth, the Education Officer with BMC, was instrumental in getting proper premises for SEC. In 1965, the Education Department of the Bombay Municipal Corporation provided the Society with two rooms in the Agripada Municipal School building. With the increase in the number of students, the area of the school premises also gradually increased to one side of the building and the courtyard.
Collaboration with the BMC was essential for future development, as it was realized that if the school had to expand in other areas, the new units would be required to be located in Municipal School Buildings.
A sense of proper school setting was experienced with the establishment of the Agripada unit of the school. There was a bell indicating periods for different classes, and proper desks and classrooms were set up. More teachers were employed for the thirty students. At that time, the Ex-students formed and ran the Association.
The English Medium was given a trial for three years from 1975 to 1978 but had to be discontinued as the children were unable to cope up. However, presently the children study English as a subject from Class III onwards.
The Parent-Teachers Association was started in 1975 because SEC realized that the role of parents was vital for the well being of a disabled child. The handicapped children need constant help, understanding and encouragement, and it was important for the parents to understand the child’s psychology and the extent to which the child could be made independent.