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Different, not Less: Taarana School’s Children Shine in Annual Day Celebration


Taarana School students in a scene from ‘The Enormous Turnip’ during the recent Annual Day.

What the students accomplished today was a tremendous effort. It might not be a big deal for us, but it is a huge deal for these children, and we must appreciate that.

The Annual Day for Taarana School is a much-anticipated event each year. And this year, the anticipation for the celebration of talent and achievements was more palpable than ever.

After a three-year COVID-19 hiatus, the school was thrilled to once again give its differently-abled students a platform to showcase their talents – and they did not disappoint!

Having practised for their big day since July, the children showcased their artistry in a play and dance. One student even brought the audience to tears with his singing! Indeed, the celebration showcased the children’s fantastic talents and potential for their future.

The students started practising for their Annual Day in July.

A Celebration of Song, Dance and Achievements

The programme started with a sketch based on ‘The Enormous Turnip’, a Russian folktale about an elderly couple’s adventures cultivating turnips. The students added a distinct twist to the story by featuring Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, captivating the audience of families, guests, and senior executives from QI Group and RYTHM, the Group’s social impact arm. The skit concluded with 11-year-old Kellina Puspa Raj summarising the moral of the story with a resounding, “If we work together, we can do anything!”

The next item – a heart-warming solo rendition of Josh Groban’s ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Joel Joshua Augustian – left the audience mesmerised and teary-eyed.

In just over a year since joining Taarana, Joshua has become more self-assured and has dramatically improved his social skills. The nine-year-old is known for singing with immense joy at school and was no less resolute in performing his best during the event.

Left: An energetic dance performance by the students and teachers. Right: Joel Joshua performs a heartwarming rendition of ‘You Raise Me Up.’

The finale was an energetic dance performance by the students, teachers, and therapists with sparkly pompoms in hand to the upbeat hit ‘I Like to Move It’, a song made famous in the animated film ‘Madagascar.’

Tey Yu Yann, another student who has blossomed with self-assurance since attending the school, led the performance choreographed by the school’s dance and movement therapist. Ten-year-old Yu Yann has a speech delay and struggled to find a supportive learning environment until Taarana helped her emerge from her shell.

The celebration also featured an awards ceremony for the children for their vast growth and achievements in various areas. They received certificates in these categories: ‘Progressive Award’, ‘Awesome Attendance’, ‘Best Handwriting’, ‘Awesome Artiste’, ‘Puzzle Master’, ‘Daily Living Skills’, ‘Cool Communicator’, ‘Amazing Athlete’, and for their participation in Taarana’s Sports Day and Sensory Day.

Associate Prof Dr Annapurny Venkiteswaran (left) and Nida Ali (standing), parents to Taarana students, voice their appreciation to the school and teachers.

‘A Home Away from Home

The children’s pleasure and joy were only matched by their families, who cheered the day’s stars with immense pride and voiced their appreciation to Taarana’s Principal, Dr Sunitha Sivakumaran and her team of teachers and therapists.

“This school is a home away from their home,” parent and Associate Prof Dr Annapurny Venkiteswaran said. “Today was a wonderful day for all of us, and we are thankful to RYTHM Foundation and the fantastic teachers and the principal of Taarana.

“Many of us parents have hopped from school to school to find the right one for our children. Our strong communication with the school’s dedicated teachers means a lot to us,” Associate Prof Dr Annapurny, whose son attends Taarana’s Early Intervention Programme (EIP), added.

Joel Joshua’s sister Ann Madeline shared her family’s astonishment at his advancements and improvements.

“Joshua has been able to read and write long sentences since joining Taarana. In addition, we have noticed a tremendous improvement in his speech and cognitive, communication, and math skills whilst holding eye contact and gesturing to share his communication with others,” she said in her speech.

“To all the Taarana teachers, you are creating an extraordinary legacy right here. Thank you is not enough but thank you, nonetheless. All of you are cherished and amazing.”

“I appreciate that Taarana includes parents in discussions about the curriculum and the areas we want our children to improve. My son performed tremendously well today with confidence, and we have seen improvements in other areas,” Sarah Yusof, mother to Transition Programme student Rayyan Harris, said.

“As a community, we need to support people with different abilities because being different does not mean being less capable,” Sarah added, echoing the school’s tagline ‘Different, Not Less.’

Another parent, Nida Ali, said she was thrilled to discover Taarana as a one-stop centre that catered to her seven-year-old child’s educational and therapeutic needs. “In just a few months, I have seen astonishing improvements in my daughter. She has had tremendous help with her communication and motor skills. That speedy change is remarkable.

“My message to the community is that as parents, if we understand and respect our differently-abled children, only then will society accept and appreciate them.”

Left: Datin Sri Umayal presents a certificate to Tey Yu Yann. Right: An elated Rayyan Harris celebrates his achievements with his mother, Sarah Yusof, and Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer of QNET, Trevor Kuna.

Inclusion for Involvement and Empowerment

The children’s triumphant stories prove that the differently-abled can lead positive lives with dedication, support, the appropriate education, and awareness.

In her address, RYTHM Foundation Chairperson, Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran, said, “What the students accomplished today was a tremendous effort on their part. It might not be a big deal for most of us, but it is a huge deal for these children, and we must appreciate that.

“Let us put ourselves in their shoes to understand how difficult life can be for them – not just every day but every second. We must use our voices to shout louder about inclusion so that every child can walk into any school with the right to the facilities and services that should be readily available to them.”

Dato’ Sri Vijay Eswaran: Differently-abled children are God’s gift to us for their love and a fresh take on life.

Dato’ Sri Vijay Eswaran, the Founder and Executive Chairman of QI, reiterated the Group’s commitment to advocating for the differently-abled.

“We are blessed to have done this for as long as we have. Thank you for believing in us and for entrusting your children to us. We thank you for being part of this journey with us,” he said.

Dato’ Sri Vijay likened parents and society as genuinely gifted for the differently-abled. “To feel anything different would be wrong. These children are God’s gift to us for their love and a fresh take on life. We need them more than they need us, and we become better parents and humans for that.”