Vol. 5 Num 959 Sat. February 10, 2007  
Front Page

Monsur lost his eyesight but never his vision
Tale of the first blind student to receive Master's degree from DU

April is his favourite, as significant events in his life took place during the month, said Monsur Ahmed Choudhuri, the first blind student to receive a master's degree from Dhaka University.

"On April 2, 1957, I started my education using braille which I consider as the start of the second phase of my life. On April 8, 1966 I appeared for secondary school certificate (SSC) as a private candidate despite obstacles and discouragement from the Dhaka education board authorities," said Monsur, who overcame his disability with determination, courage and optimism.

The day he started working for Assistance for Blind Children (ABC) it was April 2, 1978, the floating hospital, 'Jibon Tari' run by Impact Foundation Bangladesh, started its work on April 9, 1999, and April is the month of his late wife Jesmine Rahman's birth, added Monsur, who sets an example for around 1.4 crore physically and mentally challenged people in the country.

Monsur Ahmed Choudhuri, director and trustee of Impact Foundation Bangldesh, was also a technical adviser to Helen Keller International Bangladesh, general secretary of Assistance for Blind Children, and the executive officer of Bangladesh National Society for the Blind.

He is currently also the secretary of Social Services and Management Trust of Sir John Wilson School, and the chairman of policy and legislation committee of the National Forum of Organisations Working with the Disabled.

He lost his vision at the age of seven following a sports related injury which was treated wrongly while he was studying in class one in Bangla Bazar Kindergarten in Dhaka in 1956.

"A year was lost from my life due to the injury and its treatment. I could not play, used to just sit at home. Sometimes, I used to go out for a walk holding my father Moziruddin Choudhuri's hands, who was a magistrate of a Dhaka court," said Monsur.

However, being from a privileged family he got educational opportunities despite being blind. He started to attend Rotary School for the Blind as its first student on the premises of a primary school in Razabazar, which is now Government School for the Blind situated in Mirpur.

After receiving his secondary school certificate with a first division he go admitted to Dhaka College although the erstwhile principal, late Zalaluddin, was viscerally uncomfortable about his admission to the college as he was looking at Monsur as a burden. Monsur sat for the higher secondary certificate (HSC) in 1968 and the very year his brilliant result got him admitted to Dhaka University.

He got admitted to the department of political science as the first ever blind student of the university and despite various difficulties in studying as a visually impaired student including non-cooperation from the library initially, he completed his master's degree from the department of public administration securing the first position among the students who passed with second class.

But the negative attitude of the authorities towards him for being blind barred him from becoming a teacher at the university, which had actually been his long cherished dream.

Even his desire for studying law was quashed in 1975, as the British embassy in Bangladesh did not give him a visa although he already had got admission to Inner Temple University.

"The days were very awful. Nobody was willing to recruit me for my physical limitations for which I was not responsible at all. However, my father inspired me to take up social work and I got myself involved with the welfare of other physically and mentally challenged people," Monsur said.

Through the projects of Impact Jibon Tari, Impact Masudul Haque Memorial Community Health Centre in Chuadanga, and Impact Jibon Mela Hospital in Meherpur, Monsur Ahmed and his team already touched the lives of more than 1,407,352 people.

Under the projects a large number of people received health education on primary health care, immunization, nutrition and sanitation, and on their relationship with disabilities.

A total of 4,286 schoolteachers, community leaders and mothers club members were trained on early detection of disabilities.

Two hundred and sixty people with disabilities received training on income generating activities and were provided with financial assistance for income generation.

Monsur received Atish Dipankar Award in 2004 and Senior Ashoka Fellowship in 2005 for social entrepreneurship.

Terming Monsur as a role model for people with disabilities in the country, noted economist Dr Atiur Rahman said Monsur proved that people can succeed in life by exercising their rights instead of begging for compassion from other people.

"He has been playing an important role in the country's policy making and even working hard to bring the disabled people in the mainstream of development," he said.

Another person who has known Monsur since his early life is former adviser to the caretaker government Sultana Kamal.

She said Monsur is a praiseworthy person who not only established himself through hard competition with people who did not have the disadvantage of being physically impaired but also works to establish the rights and dignity of other physically challenged people.

"He is very positive about life and focused. What he wants, he will achieve that," said Professor Monjurul Islam of Dhaka University who has been maintaining a lasting friendship with Monsur since their life together in university.

Monsur never despaired and he never complained, rather he is helping other people to find their ways, Prof Monjur added.

"Now when I look back, a feeling of satisfaction engulfs me. It makes me think I did not lose much. Rather I've got the chance to be nearer to the poor, to send positive messages to the people who are deprived in many ways," Monsur said.

"I always ask physically challenged people to attain skills and to continue fighting to prove their efficiency although the society is very tough on them," said Monsur adding that the satisfaction is higher when something is achieved through struggle.

Visually impaired Monsur operates a computer using Braille. PHOTO: STAR