Giving Equal Opportunity to All
When Aruna, a ten year old, in the year 2002, came for the first time in front of my eyes, she was a pretty face, bright eyes, and chirpy voice, in the lap of her frail mother. I could not sleep that night. Her smiling face, excited voice and shining eyes with dreams for future kept me wondering, why did such a tragedy struck her? Aruna is completely invalid below the waist and could not move on her own. Even her hands were distorted but she had an active brain. She was discontinued from her previous school as the authorities there could not provide her special facilities she would need as a grown up girl especially when she would reach the secondary section.
Developing Empathy and Compassion through Inclusivity
I did not take even a second to decide and gave admission to Aruna in Std. V. Teachers raised many concerns. How will she be accommodated in such crowded classrooms? Who will look after her once her mother drops her to school and leaves the premises? She cannot sit on a regular bench? How will she sit here in the school class for five hours? Who will take her to the washroom? Why does she need to be in school when she can’t even move and when she is totally dependent on others? How and whom her schooling is going to help? Her parents are so poor, they will spend so much of their hard earned money just to bring her to school daily, leave aside other expenses. She can’t even use a wheelchair?
I had answers to all these questions. That one instance gave me the education of life. Aruna, with deep concern in her voice, had asked me a question, “Mam, will you admit me here? I want to study”. Here I was, day in and day out dealing and counselling, reforming students who were healthy physically and mentally but did not want to study due to trivial problems. Yes, their self created problems seemed so trivial compared to Aruna’s problems. I took it as a God sent opportunity to let a physically challenged girl study with normal bodied students. For her it was fulfillment of her desire and for me it was a medium to make other students realize how we take God’s gift of a normal life for granted. Just by having such a classmate, students would learn a big lesson of life. Through Aruna’s presence, the students would learn to sympathize, develop a helping attitude, compassion and many other values when they would help Aruna in the class. Along with other teachers I was also surprised to see how her classmates were helpful and how they accepted her in the class and even adapted to suit her needs.
Extending a Helping Hand
Aruna, in the last eleven years, not only completed her Std. X public examination with first division, she even studied Science in the junior college of which I am the principal. She attended all the classes and completed the practical work related to the science subjects. She appeared for higher secondary (Std. XII) board examination, and prepared for the entrance examinations for engineering. She later joined Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) I.T course in my college. She has completed her graduation and is now capable of earning. Her problems are the same. She was given specially designed chair for classroom and laboratories. She had a washroom specially designed for her requirement. Every year a classroom on the ground floor class was assigned, so that she as well as those assisting her did not need to climb stairs. The faculty and the staff were given duties for her facilitating her need for movement. Today she works from her home. She has been given a laptop by us and I ensure that she get jobs which she can do from her home on the computer and earn. It was with disbelief I heard her that she wants to prepare for IAS examination. I was seeing a dream in her eyes. So now she will prepare for this new goal she has set for herself….