Like many young adults in the city, 20-year-old N. Mohammad Afzal looks forward to attending college this year.
Having gained admission to an engineering course in National Institute of Technology – Tiruchi (NITT), Afzal knows the next four years will define his goals as an individual.
What makes the soft-spoken Tiruchi resident unique is that he has come this far, despite suffering from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that has left him confined to a wheelchair since an early age.
“Many parents who have children with disability are generally dissuaded from educating them, but this is a wrong approach. In Afzal’s case, it was his own decision to complete schooling (through private tutoring) and apply for higher studies. We are very happy to see his dream come true,” his mother Shahida Ahmed Nasir, told.
Afzal was taught by his elder sister Afsa, a B.Sc Chemistry graduate, and friends for his Senior Secondary Examinations under the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) syllabus. He opted for English, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics, and scored 323 marks out of 500.
In the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) main paper, he scored 26 percentile and was ranked 996 OBC-NCL Person With Disability category.
There is a tendency to restrict education options for children with disability in India, and the focus on vocational courses ignores those who can be trained to be part of the mainstream academic system, says G. Praveena Carmel, principal of Dolphin Special School and Centre in Tiruchi.
The school has successfully placed many of its students in regular colleges. This year, two of its alumni, B.K. Gurudevadersh (who is autistic) and Vinothan (who has learning difficulties), have enrolled in B.Sc. Physical Education in National College.
The college exposure will help them to learn social skills and also interact outside their comfort zones, say their parents.
“My son is really cherished by his classmates and professors,” says Ms. Dhanalakshmi, whose autistic son R. Sabarikumar is doing his final year B.A. History in Jamal Mohamed College.
A fellow student functions as a ‘peer tutor’ to help Sabarikumar with classroom assignments. “It is heartening to see the effort that institutions put in to sensitise their students and staff about people with disability,” said Ms. Carmel.
“Though it is natural for parents to worry about their children, we have found that youngsters are very quick to adapt to and befriend people with special needs,” said N. Jhansi Rani, whose autistic son Rithick is studying third year B.Sc Physical Education in National College.
For Mr. Bhoopathi, father of Gurudevadersh, college is a way to make his son learn how to make friends. “Though I am unsure about whether society will accept him for regular employment, the education will certainly help him become independent,” he said.
(source : The Hindu)