Story of a Finance Professional who started a SCHOOL for Differently Abled Children near Mumbai

  • What motivated Sundar to start a school for differently abled kids that has app 80 plus students today? What were/are the challenges? What is the mission of Suryoday RBL School?


Recently, I attended a Finance Reunion get together where met an old colleague Sundar. During catching up got to know he ran a school for differently abled children. After hearing his inspiring story, felt like sharing. The photo feature is presented in a Q&A format along with school pictures.  


1. What is your background?

I am a finance professional who worked with Hindustan Levers for 18 years and then as Chief Financial Officer of Henkel India for 18 years. I retired from corporate role in 2020 and am currently involved with Suryoday School, of which I am a founder. 


I started getting involved in the social sector around 2006 when I was around 46 years old. 


2. How did the idea of a school for differently abled children come?

I started to work as a weekend volunteer for a School educating Special needs Children at Goregaon (Mumbai) since 2006. That inspired me to start a new school for special needs children hence formed a Trust in 2009. Along with two colleagues we started Suryoday School in 2010 by renting space at Nalasopara. near Mumbai) 

Old school at Nalasopara. 

3. What were the top 3-5 struggles faced in starting school?

Biggest struggle was to find children with intellectual disabilities whose parents were willing to send them to school. As most of these children come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, their parents were reluctant to pay for their education. That’s when we decided to subsidize their education by up to 85-90% and raise donations for the balance amount. 


Other challenges were predominantly on capacity… as our school started to grow, we did not have sufficient space to accommodate additional children. We kept renting more galas but that was a temporary solution.

New school building. 

4. How did the new School building come about?

We were clear that if we have to help these children in the long run, we will need land on which we can build a school with enough capacity to support growth.

Collage of new classrooms. 

Buying land in Nalasopara/Vasai in those days was practically impossible. We got lucky to find a small parcel of land. Next challenge was to get funding to construct new school building. Once again, it was God’s will and we got a large donor who committed 50% of the capital cost. We were enthused by this and raised the balance within eighteen months. Our new school building was built within 24 months and is now fully operational.


5. How many kids and teachers today?

We have 80+ special children with 9 special educators + 8 consultants helping us with various therapies like Occupational Therapy, Consulting psychiatrists, Speech Therapist, Dance, Music, Sports, etc.


We also have a professional Principal who heads both our School and our Vocational Training Centre (VTC)


6. Give examples of teaching methods

Our school follows an individualized curriculum, where in a curriculum is tailor made as per the student. This is also called an IEP (Individualized Education Program). Broadly, the subjects taught are as follows:

1. Functional Academics

2. Life skills

3. ADL (Activities of daily living)

4. Vocational Skills 

5. Recreational Skills.


Every teacher follows VAKT (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Tactile) approach to make the learning fun and easy. Along with this, the teachers use other methodologies such as digital tools, role plays and educational trips to aid learning.


7. What is Annual Budget app and sourcing of funding?

Our annual budget for current year is Rs.1.25 crores for both the school and VTC. About 15% comes from fees, 25% is contributed by Trustees and their donors and balance 60% through CSR (Corporate Social Responsbility). 


8. Does Trust offer 80 G Income Tax Benefit for contributions?

Yes, we have been providing 80G tax benefits to our donors from early years. We continue to be a fully tax compliant Trust.


9. Can Trust receive funds from Non-resident Indians meaning FCRA approval?

Yes, we are allowed to receive funds from abroad. Our FCRA certificate has been renewed for five years.


10. What are your Future Plans and Challenges?

Our mission - Build Institutions where people with Intellectually disability have an opportunity to realise their full potential through tailored education, therapeutic support and professional skill development, aided by well-trained educators, deploying modern technology to deliver a contemporary curriculum.


With this in mind we are focusing on Vocational Training & Skill Development of our children with an eye to creating livelihood opportunities for them.

We have also created a digital curriculum called “Lakshya” for special children which has multi lingual learning facility. 


We are planning to take this curriculum to special schools across the country and might look at international schools as well. 


As we grow, our primary challenge will be finding quality special educators and consultants who are aligned with our Vision of providing quality education to children with intellectual disabilities and coming from socioeconomic backward backgrounds


11. Who are the Managing Trustees?

Sundar Iyer and Sachin Raje.


If you wish to volunteer or support through a contribution contact Sundar at , 91 – 98203 39587


Sharing some pictures of school-

Learning Pottery. 

Sports Awards. 

Digital training. 

Master Chef. 

Early intervention class. 

Computer training. 

Life skill training. 

Learning Stitching. 

Learning Maths and Words from a Digital Panel. 

Teach me the way I can learn. 

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