Seeing through the inner eye
Tale of some brave DU students
Kazi Ahmed Farhan
Photo by Kazi Ahmed Farhan
I was very glad to be a part of University of Dhaka. Now I have already completed my journey from Honours to Masters programme”, said Palash Marak, a visually impaired student of the Department of History, University of Dhaka.
This is how he narrated his life experience. He described several ups and downs in his life. These students are not like others. They are different. They are the physically handicapped students studying in the different departments of University of Dhaka. Why are they different? Because, for their impairment they have to fight for almost everything in their life.
I went to several boys' halls to know about their lifestyle, happiness and jot, sorrows and agonies in order to write this story. This is how they evaluated their life, the society, the role of family and even strangers. The road they walked was full of thorns. It was their strong determination, which drives them to be educated in the University of Dhaka and they had to cross several hurdles to make this journey.
Primarily, there are two types of physical impairment that is commonly called a handicap. One is visually impaired and another is physically impaired. Visually impaired are those who have problems in having a proper eyesight and the physically impaired are those who are deaf and dumb, without two hands or some portion of legs, crippled or defective hands or legs and so on. Inspite of these physical problems, they carry on living their lives as normal students.
All students having no impairment can enjoy their lives as they want to. But the handicapped cannot. They have to face many obstacles in each and every aspect of their lives. The way they survive and lead their day to day life is certainly very interesting. They have many shortcomings, and yet they know how to remove those and turn those into their strengths.
They are in competition with all the other students. Their biggest achievement is that they not only took admission in DU but also have survived by competing with other normal students. This was surely due to their patience, courage and intention to do well in life. They have suffered, got knocked around and were overlooked, but they never gave up the intention, courage and passion to be able to do at least something which will be useful to mankind. For them the disability is not an obstacle any more, rather they want to capitalise on it for the betterment of the handicapped students.
They do the same thing as the other students do. They do attend classes regularly, take lecture notes, do class presentations, and prepare themselves for the examinations.
They have not only got admitted in DU but also successfully completed their study in doing so.
On the role of family, Madhab Chandra Pal, a visually impaired student of DU said, “The torture started from my early life from my brothers and sisters. They always neglected me. This always reminded me of my weakness but it worked as a positive boost to inspire me to have a successful life. Once they were against my education. This has certainly enhanced my confidence that I have to do something to show them that I can do what I wish. Our society has several superstitions as well as ignorance regarding the handicapped. They did not accept us willingly as we are seen as the burden of society.”
Basically we live in a backward society. The consciousness of the people is not up to the mark. Here normal people have to fight for their rights. So, it is easily understandable that the handicapped will also have to fight for the right even harder.
For the visually impaired, the problems are very much critical. Firstly, they face the problem regarding taking notes of the class lectures. They almost have to fight for the class lectures. There are some teachers who allow them to use tape recorders to record the lectures. But in some cases, some of them don't allow to record the class lectures. These teachers tell them to copy the class notes from their friends. But the friends in many occasions don't cooperate with them willingly. It is seen that collection of class notes take up most of their time.
The second problem for the visually impaired is availability of books. In Bangladesh, there are books in Braille system for SSC and HSC level. But there are no books in Braille system for the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. This is the most critical problem they have to face during their studentship.
The visually impaired have to buy books that don't have any Braille edition. Then they have to transform the normal edition into Braille edition by either themselves or by paying a lot of money to professional people.
There are several NGOs in Bangladesh who help the visually impaired by making their textbooks in Braille. But the price they charge is TK.1.50 per page, which is very high for the visually impaired to afford. The students have to buy the normal edition of the book and then they have to give the book to the professionals for transforming. This system costs them twice per subject as they buy the normal edition and then have to bear the transformation cost.
Those who can't avail the professionals for transforming texts have to do it on their own. It is a very time consuming job. Sometimes it is seen that they can't prepare the books in time as they have to convert those normal editions into Braille edition when the examination is close to door.
There are listening materials for some books. But the numbers of books containing listening materials are very few. This is another problem that the visually impaired students face during their studentship. That's why the students go to transform their books into Braille as they have no sufficient textbooks containing listening materials.
As visually impaired and physically handicapped students without limbs cannot write, they have to find someone else to write after listening from them during the examination time. Finding a suitable writer to write for them during the examination is another big problem.
Other than the visually impaired, there are other types of physical handicapped students studying in the University of Dhaka.
There are some students who have lost either or both of their legs or hands. They have to face same kinds of problems as the visually impaired students do. The foremost problems are finding a suitable writer to write for them during exams. Those who have lost their legs or have problems in their legs also have to face many hurdles. They have to walk around for finding the class and have to climb the stairs. Although there are lifts in some of the buildings but those are restricted for the teachers only.
Hall accommodation is another problem. It is a big problem which has no alternative. For the handicapped students, the procedure is not easy. Sometimes it costs them one year to get a seat in the hall. For the time being, they have to share rooms with others in an unauthorized way.
The handicapped are remembered only on special days like World Disabilities Day, White Stick Day etc. But when the day is over, they are forgotten.
One visually impaired student said, “We haven't got our rights. For this, we have to fight very hard. If we don't fight we shall be deprived of our rights. I think the fight is never going to end. This will continue till infinity.”
The handicapped people do not get suitable jobs in the competitive job arena. They have to be satisfied with the job that they get. They have not many options to choose from or get a dream job. This makes them dependent on those employers. Even if they do get a good job, they are not offered a handsome salary. This makes them feel inferior among other colleagues. On this point, one visually impaired student said, “18 students, who have completed their Masters from different departments of the University of Dhaka, are not getting jobs because they are visually impaired. Handicapped students cannot qualify themselves in the BCS Examinations while they feel they are eligible for it. However, several NGOs are working for the betterment of the handicapped. Occasionally they employ us in jobs.”
While talking about the role of Student Counselling and Guidance Centre of University of Dhaka for solving the problems that the handicapped face in their day-to-day life, some students said, “Often we go there for solving the problems which we feel. Sometimes we get results, sometimes not. But they try their heart and soul to help us. They help us in finding jobs as it is very hard to get suitable jobs”.
The handicapped will have to face many crises but these will not stay for a long time. The handicapped will remove the crises and make their way out of those. For this we have to create consciousness in society to handle the matter of the handicapped with a great deal of sensitivity. We should not leave them behind us rather we have to walk side by side with them.
Aside from these negatives, there are some positive signs for the handicapped students.
The visually impaired students enjoy several facilities while they study in the university. They can apply for the quota if they qualify in the admission test for DU. They get extra times in the examination hall to finish their writings.
“Sight Savers International” came one step forward to help the visually impaired by making at least two books per subject into Braille. Right now they are working on this project. This will surely help the visually impaired to carry on with their study.
Some handicapped are doing private tuitions. Some are doing jobs in govt. and private sectors. There is a teacher in University of Dhaka who is visually impaired. This has boost up the confidence level of the other handicapped. This will motivate them to think that they are not inferior to others in society.
There are more visually impaired students among all handicapped students in University of Dhaka. For their welfare, the visually impaired students of DU have formed an association in 2006. The name of this body is “Visually Impaired Development Association”. At present there are 40 members in this association. The basic function of this association is to help the visually impaired to get suitable jobs. We also ensure that the society will make proper use of the handicapped according to their area of interest.
On the point of how to help the handicapped students to continue with their studies, one student suggested, “Right now in our country, the Ministry of Social Welfare deals with the issue of the handicapped. If the Ministry of Education takes up this responsibility alongwith Ministry of Social Welfare, then this sector will see some improvement. They should work hand in hand together. This integration will be beneficiary to the handicapped. The awareness regarding the handicapped is not high in our society. People in general have to be careful while handling the handicapped as they are also the part of the society. Still we are considered minorities in society. They show us sympathy but what we really want is compassion.”
My understanding from talking with a number of physically impaired students is that they want equal treatment like normal people. We must impart the feeling that they are not inferior to others in society. Because this hurts them very badly.
They want our assistance from not only individual level but also institutional level. We have to be more conscious about them. We have to ensure timely help towards them so that they can make themselves comfortable. We should give them priority as early as possible.
NGOs can play an important role in solving the problems the handicapped face. They can donate several listening devices, arrange lifts for the handicapped, provide Braille edition of books and so on.
The handicapped want our friendly cooperation. We all have to help them as much as we can. Education is an universal product. We cannot reserve it for some people or sectors. We have to spread it out to all so that the light of knowledge can touch every mind in society. We have to extend our helping hands towards them and open new windows of opportunity so that they can explore the world. Our constant support will make them worthy. We should always be with them so that they can see the light of the world, feel the warmth of relationship, and hear the sound of joy, experience the beautiful world.
Lastly, the handicapped have to build up their confidence and hold their positive attitude. They should not lose their concentration.
BBA 8th batch
Department of Marketing, DU
We shall overcome
Tazmia Islam Nion
Basic demand of the physically disabled is to be included in the mainstream and not to be privileged with special treatment but to have access to what everyone else does.
We have highlighted the life of the physically disabled students who are studying in Dhaka University.
It's not so easy for the disabled students to continue their study as the normal one. It took extra efforts and time to cope with the educational system. Normally they attend classes with tape recorder and later with the help of other students they prepare their notes.
After collecting the notes they have to convert the notes into brails, their own learning system.
“It is expensive for us to complete the whole process, which is really difficult for us to manage,” says Mahima, a student of Sociology.
It's not as normal as we prepare for examination or attend classes and I got some shocking information while preparing this story. Imagine, disabled students are not allowed to use the library!
But despite such adversities, Mansura Yasmin, a 4th year student of political Science is successfully carrying on with her educational life. She manages to obtain second class marks.
“We want a corner for us in the library, it's our right, but instead of being sympathetic they are often too rude to us. They don't even want us to be present in the library. We want a separate corner in the library where we can study says Mansura Yasmin.
There is no arrangement for the disabled students in the library; they don't have any book or notes.
The students who have completed their honours or masters can contribute to the preparation of notes for the blind, which will at least minimize the problems of preparing the notes in future. The blind students can be appointed by the authority, which will also create job opportunity for the handicapped students.
Though there is a quota for the disabled students but other students are fighting for those reserved seats in the hall.
Sanjida Alam is suffering from accommodation problem . Every day she has to come from Savar to attend classes, which is really difficult for her, but the authorities do not show any sympathy.
Handicapped students are really grateful to roommates and other students of their dormitory because if they don't get help from them then it would be really tough for them to continue with their educational life.
The blind students are self-sufficient. They even have all arrangement for cooking their own food. They are not dependent on others for this matter. They normally use rickshaw as a means of transportation, it sometimes increase their expenses. They feel that if the DU authorities could arrange for separate bus for the disable students it would be quite helpful for them.
Parvin, commonly known as “Parvin Apa” among the juniors, is studying in the history department. She wanted to be a teacher but now she is losing her confidence because of the circumstances. “It's very difficult to complete the course. We have to do more work than the normal students, as we have to take the help of writers for examination, which takes more than one week to complete the formalities about the writers.” She said.
She demands for the systems to be changed which could be helpful for them.
The university doesn't have any arrangement for the entertainment of the handicapped students. But they arrange programmes by themselves and also attend different programmes organized by different NGO's.
Sultana Ferdous Ara Khanom, Principle House Tutor of Samsunnahar Hall said, “We have full support for the disabled students. We always want to extend all types of support to them, but due to some bureaucratic problems, it's not always possible for us to do what we want to do.”
Instead of helping the disabled, people actually exploit them and put them at further disadvantageous situation. But they do not want any sympathy. They only want cooperation of all so that they can lead a normal life.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007