GUWAHATI, Aug 23 - Juggling with a myriad of thoughts, I entered the classroom of seven students of Class X, eagerly listening to their teacher with a recorder in their hands. They greeted me with warm smiles and thus encouraged, I took a seat alongside.
These visually impaired students of the Guwahati Blind High School (established in 1976), welcomed my queries and happily interacted with me over their daily schedule and process of learning. One thing was certain though. These students do not entertain any kind of pity. They might be slow learners, but they are very keen and enthusiastic to learn. After school hours, computer training, music and craft classes are also held here. And this year onwards, a spoken English class has been initiated.
The Guwahati Blind High School is a vernacular co-educational institute affiliated to the SEBA with 61 students from classes I to X. This year a Braille library was inaugurated in the school campus. It is a residential school with separate hostels for girls and boys and a common dining hall.
The government provides access to free education and the State social welfare department looks after the hostel management. The school also runs on public donations from good Samaritans. At present, the hostel has a total capacity of 75 beds.
It may be mentioned that Md Saheed Afridi, a student of Class VII, is a rising star of the school, having been a finalist on the TV show, ‘Akash Subor Mon.’
But like it is said, there is always room for improvement and as far as inclusive education in the State is concerned, we have a long way to go. At present, there are three government-run schools for blind students in Jorhat, Nagaon and Guwahati.
The mission is to transform the students into empowered individuals with a clear vision. “There are three vacant faculty positions since 2015, two for arts subjects and one for Hindi,” said Bhaben Barman, headmaster in-charge, Guwahati. He added that time is the best resource we can give these students so that they can realise their potential. The State education department has a crucial role to play by recruiting TET-qualified teachers on a timely basis. Currently, there are fifteen teachers and the faculty also has visually impaired teachers who are well trained.
What the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, envisages is a society sans discrimination. Their condition is not something they chose for themselves. In that light, it becomes imperative for society to develop a new attitude collectively and reconsider how ‘disability’ is defined because in the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”