Journey through Bangladesh
Disability is not the Real Problem
Physical disability is not the real problem. The main problem is ignorance and superstition concerning disability and the self-esteem of the disabled. A local NGO, Rishilpi, run by two Italians, Enzo Falcone and Laura Melano, has proved it by providing education and treatment along with rehabilitation for disabled children.
The NGO under its Health Program has opened up a special education unit to provide treatment and rehabilitation for the disabled. Specialist teachers teach the disabled children with love and affection and specialists doctors treat them at the health center at the NGO compound at Binerpota area in Sadar upazila.
Before launching its special education program, the NGO conducted a survey, which revealed that the most of the disabled children in the district were the victims of Cerebral Palsy in 1995. As a result, these ill-fated children become physically and mentally disabled and they have been passing their days in hardship.
The survey said, these disabled children might be able to lead normal lives if they were given education and treatment at the primary stage. Physiotherapy is the only way to develop physical fitness for physically disabled children afflicted with cerebral palsy. Mental disabilities can be fought with special education, the report said.
The Rishilpi launched its noble initiative in 1997 with 7 disabled children, two teachers and a class room. The NGO first asseses the IQ of the disabled children and groups them in five categories such as the disabled children facing visual, hearing, manual, stimulation and speech and communication. Next, the NGO provides teachers for 125 disabled children every month with nine special teachers and five classrooms under its Special Education Program.
The children are taught using various colorful appliances including toys, balls, candles, looking glasses. These work to improve both physical and mental obstacles.
The program starts with physiotherapy in the morning followed by Bengali and English and mathematics and communication classes. Education for the disabled mainly given through instruments.
A teacher, Khadijatul Kobra said students use various instruments such as candles, colored toys, various types of picture boards, colors and fruits and vegetables, looking glasses to improve visual problems of the disabled children attacked with cerebral palsy.
“We take the help of various appliances such as TV programs, siding talk with the baby, ringing bell, hearing and realising the differences of words and game feelings to improve hearing problems”, she said.
“We apply various techniques to improve the manual problems such as giving stimulation in hands, clapping, catching and throwing balls and toys, reading, counting boards, games,” said another teacher Prava Rani Mondal.
“We give them body stimulation, hard and soft objects in their hands, and walk on hard and soft things to increase stimulation,” she added.
“We remove the speech and communication problems of the disabled children by speech therapy, articulation therapy; we use communication boards and speech therapy glass, face to face leap writing of the children and facial massage. Besides we remove the speech and communication problems through music therapy,” she added.
Teachings at the special education unit are helping the children tremendously, she said. “Many students who could not understand anything earlier now understand many things. Their level of understanding is growing”, she further added..
“We also teach them the techniques of toiling, feeding and dressing and undressing to remove the other problems”, said Md. Iliasur Rahman in-charge Special Education unit.
“We are giving the children sports facilities which are vital for such disabled to lead normal life,” he added.
The disabled also took part in arts, recitation, sports and cultural competitions to improve intelligence disability side by side taking minimum education, he said.
The NGO trains the disabled who become fit in special education program in sewing, handicrafts making and rehabilitates them in different trades in the NGO.
At present four disabled are working in the vocational trades and earning their livelihood. Rishilpi director Enzo Falcone said, after taking special education from the NGO, at least 82 children are reading in different schools in the district and Rishilpi is helping them.
He said, the NGO's aim is create confidence among the disabled, remove superstitions and wrong ideas about disability, create awareness about their rights in the society and to make them self-reliant by providing training on various vocations.
He said their efforts have created confidence among the disabled who visit the unit.
Confidence building and removing superstitions is the prime task, he said. “A new life starts once a disabled person believes that a disability can be cured.” He added that there were plans to further expand the NGO's efforts.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007