Disabled Yet Meritorious
“Disability and poverty are the two things I fight against. I don't see my disability as a barrier, I see it as a challenge, and it is something that will not stop me from fulfilling my dream of studying at a higher level. Poverty, on the other hand is something that my family and I have been struggling against for a very long time, but we never seem to be able to triumph over it” said Arifa Akhtar Akhi - a physically challenged girl from the village of Shahee Tari from the Lalmonirhat sadar upazilla.
S. Dilip Roy
Arifa Akhtar Akhi has been physically challenged since her birth. Both her hands are inoperable, forcing her to carry out all her activities using her legs. Her father Abdul Alim is a hawker who earns about Tk. 90-100 per day. Her mother Mamota Begum is a housewife. Arifa has three brother and sisters.
Since her parents are poor, it is difficult for them to pay for their daughter's education. Akhi told Star Insight, “My mother tells me that I'm a great source of worry in the family, as no man will come to marry me in the future. I always give my mother the same reply, 'Marriage is not a factor in my life, I have never thought about it, maybe sometime in the future I will, but right now I just think about my studies.”
Arifa holds a place in the 'Top Ten Most Meritorious Student List' following the grade six final examinations. She wrote her exams by holding the pen using her feet last year and hopes to achieve first place in grade seven's final exams this year too. She along with 109 other students took part in the grade seven exams in February and March this year at the Fulgach High School. All her classmates passed the exams but Arifa was the one that topped them all.
Arifa continued, “My teachers and all of my classmates help me in school. And I get help from my parents at home. Sometime I face problems on the way to school and going back home as many of the locals keep staring at me.” Akhi's classmates Banesa Akhtar, Keya Khatun, Kamrunnahar said, “Farida Akhtar Akhi is a brilliant student. Both of her hands may be inoperative, but she makes up for it using her feet to write. Akhi is never shy and always plays with us and is friendly towards all, she also behalves pretty well with all the other classmates too.” Another classmate Rumpa Akhtar said, “I was a weak student in class. Apart from Akhi, every one of my classmates used to make fun of me. Akhi helped me improve.” Akhi's class teacher Aktar Hossain said that Akhi is an ideal student of Fulgachh High School at Fulgachh village in Lalmonirhat sadar upazila. She is a physically challenged girl, but she doesn't think like others. Akhi was recorded as a first place holder in the meritorious student list and she is expected to achieve 1st place in the final exam this year as well. Another one of Akhi's teachers, Shikha Rani said, “Both teachers and students of the school expect Arifa Akhtar Akhi to bring about glorious success for the school in future. We the teachers of this school always take special care for physically challenged students such as Arifa Akhtar Akhi.” Akhi's mother Mamotaz Begum said that her daughter wants to establish herself as an example; she wants to prove that disability is not burden for a person's family, society or state. She can do all the activities that other children can.
Akhi's father Abdul Alim said that his daughter gets Tk. 300 per month as disability allowance from the government, this money helps them buy educational material. But he cannot afford to purchase new dresses and other necessary accessories for Akhi due to his little income. “I am afraid that my parents might not be able to support me till I fulfill my goals. If I get help from other sources I can definitely reach my goals,” says a determined Akhi.
(R) thedailystar.net 2012