Fathema Ismail’s firm dedication, perseverance and unhampered capacity to give unstintingly for a cause that she believed in, laid the foundation of the Society for the Education of the Challenged (Child & Adult) in the year 1958.
The school began with Kamalben Pande as the Principal, and Arunaben and Shardaben as the first teachers of the school. They taught for many years and laid the foundation of the school. In 1990, Kamalben was bestowed the National Award for the best teacher.
Rukshar Ahmedbhoy was the Second President of SEC from 1979 – 1981. She brought in a lot of financial contacts during this period. The financial contributions were crucial, as SEC was facing problems of inadequate funds.
Extra – curricular activities, such as attending camps, taking part in music, art and handicrafts activities, etc. were introduced to build the confidence of the children and to facilitate social interaction.
Initially, a dynamic Dutch lady, Brenda Kite was the Joint Honorary Secretary. She was an important contributor to the funds committee, which included committed and active members, who were unflagging in their efforts to collect funds. Together they organized tea parties, raffles, fun-fairs, musical evenings and charity shows in order to support the initiatives introduced by SEC.
Tehmina Barma and Banoo Cama were in the Girl Guides Association with Fathema Ismail’s daughter and had great regard for her.
Barma was a Commissioner of Bharat Scouts and Guides Association, who later became Chief Commissioner, and also got the highest award in Guiding.
Tehmina Barma and Banoo Cama shared a very close relationship and often discussed and brainstormed together about the school and its growth.
Tehmina Barma was the Honorary Secretary of SEC from 1960 to 1981 and President of SEC from 1981 to 1987. She was ably assisted by Armaity Seth in the office.
Barma was primarily responsible for consolidating and stabilizing SEC and was instrumental in its expansion. Her immense organizational experience from Guiding was brought to SEC and she steered the school in the right direction with proper discipline.
As SEC was a special school, there were many procedural systems and facilities that had to be streamlined for the proper functioning of the school.
(1932 – 2018), Vice-President – Society for the Education of the Challenged (SEC)
“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning”. This motto was followed by Zarine Chothia who was the epitome of kindness and culture and who accomplished every task with a quiet sense of devotion. Zarine had but one goal in life : to cater to the varied needs of the poor.
The work that was closest to her heart was being a part of the Society for the Education of the Challenged (SEC), a school to educate underprivileged handicapped children. Under her guidance as Vice-President, the school flourished. She was instrumental in encouraging the students to create utility articles such as bags, greeting cards, trays, coasters, laptop tables which provided them income.
Being a connoisseur of art, with a degree in fine arts from the US, Zarine recognised talent in some students and arranged special art classes. The students produced one marvel after another and under Zarine’s tutelage SEC presented its first Art Exhibition ‘From Shadows to Limelight’ of the paintings by these students, at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai. Every piece of their work was sold out. The confidence generated in the students by the success of the exhibition went a long way to earning them recognition and respect in their family, enabling them to live a life of dignity. From the sale of the paintings, each student could open his own bank account. This boosted their morale and they put together 80 pieces of art, to stage their second art exhibition ‘Living Their Dreams’ at the Jehangir Art Gallery in 2013.
Zarine started her journey in social work at the young age of 20, offering her services at the Orthopaedic Hospital at Haji Ali. She understood the needs of underprivileged children who had never experienced an outing, a day full of fun and games; and so started the grand tradition of an annual picnic which is being continued at SEC.
Zarine had also been instrumental in starting a clinic for women’s ailments at the BDD chawls and arranged for free medical camps each year at Dharavi. She organized garden sales, the proceeds of which were used to buy clothes for the new-born babies at the Wadia Maternity Hospital on a continuous basis. When she was informed that many babies at the hospital contacted jaundice, a Photo-Therapy machine was donated to the Wadia Maternity Hospital. Zarine also gave her services to the Old-Age Home – F S Parukh Dharamshalla where her love, care and dedication to the seniors was incomparable.
She served unstintedly inquiring about the handicapped children at SEC and the seniors at the Dharamshalla , even while she was in the ICU. A person her age would surely have put up her feet and relaxed, thinking that she had done enough, and it was the younger generation who should take over from her. But not this woman of substance, who was a role model for an entire generation of people involved in social causes. Zarine had touched the lives of thousands of people who had needed her help and guidance. She will be missed her for her selfless work and devotion, and for bringing in new ideas to all the institutions she had helped for many years. With her good deeds she has left behind lovely memories of kindness and love. The Dalai Lama has rightly said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If YOU want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Past President – Society for the Education of the Challenged (SEC)
An exemplary life, devoted to the welfare of the students of the Society for the Education of the Challenged (SEC) is a great example to all who are associated with Roda Khambatta. 33 years and still going strong, on the Executive Committee in various capacities including Secretary and President for 4 terms. Roda was an active girl guide in her youth and was introduced to the Society for the Education of the Challenged by our very own Tehmina Barmar who was then the National Chief Commissioner for Guides. Since then Roda has been devoted to SEC, contributing with commitment and zeal. Her vast and detailed knowledge of the school processes is an asset to the committee members who seek her guidance on varied issues. Her cordial relations with the teaching and administrative staff set the right tone for all interaction throughout the school. She continues to be actively engaged in all issues, an asset to SEC.
Not one to rest on her laurels, at a senior age not only did she join the Rotary movement becoming a member of the internationally largest women’s social service club called Inner Wheel, but also participated in her club projects enthusiastically and unfailingly.
Her zest for everything marks her out as does her passion for yoga. Regular in her sessions, her energy belies her age.