Teaching the specially-abled students is not an ordinary job to do but requires immense “courage, patience and dedication” to help them grow, Kashmir based inclusive educators (IE) say. There is, however, a dearth of such teachers in Kashmir but still many are making a mark in the lives of hundreds of such children.
Rising Kashmir’s senior correspondent Riyaz Bhat spoke to some of the special tutors who shared their experience for being a guide and a mentor to the specially-abled students.
Inclusive Education tutor Samagra Shiksha
Kousar says that on an average, the special educators visit homes of at least 2-3 specially-abled students who they had identified for the Inclusive Education (IE).
“Among those, there are some students who can’t be taught and therefore we do the ‘follow-ups’. We guide their parents as to how they can try to make their wards understand about some of the basic things like daily activities, living and ideals.” Kousar said
The 29-year-old Kousar says that in Budgam zone, the government has set up a resource room in Ompora wherein at least six differently abled students are enrolled.
“While the students for IE are of different levels of disabilities, we have to teach each student individually,” she said.
Kousar also says that the way of teaching the Specially Abled Students is entirely different and needs a lot of patience and love for them to make them understand whatever is being taught to them.
“We usually show pictures or models to the mute students. They have to do picture reading. However, for the visually impaired students, we use the Braille script,” she said.
Braille is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired, including people who are blind, deaf-blind or who have low vision. It can be read either on embossed paper or by using refreshable Braille displays that connect to computers and Smartphone devices.
Kousar has been teaching the specially-abled students since 2017. “So far I have taught at least 20 students with different types of disabilities.”
She said, “In Budgam district, at least 137 such students are enrolled, out of which more than 80 students can get the education via IE but the staff is very low.”
Kousar also says that at least three different students moved from private schools and got enrolled in our resource room for the IE.
Inclusive Education tutor Samagra Shiksha
For 30-year-old Sabreen Zahra, teaching specially-abled students needs a lot of courage and hard-work and a specialized B.Ed degree.
“We cannot do it by having a normal B.Ed or Post Graduation (PG),” she said.
Hailing from Hawal area of Srinagar city, Zahra says that Samagra Shiksha has dedicated a special resource room for the purpose in every zone of the district.
“I also have a resource room at Boys Higher Secondary School at Nawakadal. We don’t have exact data about the specially-abled students because every now and then, a new special child gets enrolled,” she said.
Zahra said, “For special classes and to fill the gap, the students usually come for special teachings, special classes and sometimes whenever they face problems in any particular topic or they need special attention, assistance or guidance, they visit us twice or thrice a week at my resource room.”
The special inclusive tutor Zahra says that the Samagra Shiksha has many special teachers working in Srinagar.
The students with special-ability are given classes by different teachers who have specialization in different fields.
Zahra is specialized in B.Ed Special Education Intellectual Disability. “Besides, the inclusive teachers have to get the special training provided by Samagra Shiksha where they are learning sign language for deaf and mute students, Braille training for blind students and other classes for the students having problems with delayed speech.”
“Physically challenged students with locomotive disability are given special assistance in special education in resource rooms and for special physiotherapy they are referred to Composite Research Center (CRC) Bemina to fill those types of gaps,” she said.
She also says that, “Currently, I am teaching six to eight special students who regularly attend the special classes at my resource room.”
Sharing the success stories of her students, Zahra said, “One of the students having deaf and mute disabilities recently qualified his 10th standard and another girl student from Soura girl’s higher secondary also qualified her 12th board exams with decent marks.”
She says that being a special teacher is totally different and difficult from the normal teacher. “Besides special training, we need to have a caliber, potential and most importantly that mind set to teach such students.”
Zahra also says that it takes a lot of determination to teach special students.
“For making them understand a single alphabet, it sometimes takes days together. While for students having low understanding skills, it may take weeks or even months and only then assessment or reevaluation is possible,” she said.
Zahra said, “We make Individualised Educational Programs (IEPs), to make special time duration and that requires different tools, techniques based on a child's potential.”
In Srinagar, nine teachers are working for Inclusive Education out of which five are special education teachers and four are resource persons.
Resource Persons work for elementary level up to 8th standard and the special education teachers work for secondary level from 9-12 classes.
Volunteer tutor for CWSN
With a motive to help the Specially-abled children, Nazia Hurra didn’t accept the same fate to be an illiterate like her three siblings and became the first in her family to pursue education.
The 30-year-old Hurra says that she wants to be a helping hand for the students who need inclusive education to compete with the normal students.
Currently, Hurra is a special tutor and is teaching at least 20 specially-abled students in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
“We are three sisters and a brother, and in my family, poverty forced my siblings from going to school. However, for me there was no option of stepping back and accepting the same fate as theirs,” Hurra said.
Hailing from Naidkhai Village in Hajin Block of Bandipora district, Hurra said that she started doing social work from home by helping her specially-abled nephew who was born blind and mentally impede.
“My journey of helping specially-abled students began from home wherein I have a nephew who is blind mentally unsound. He always wanted to study like the normal students and there I started my new voyage to help the Children With Special Needs (CWSN),” she said.
Hurra says that her family was worried about her nephew’s studies because they had no idea of the Braille script for blind.
“I started working with an NGO—National Association for the Blind wherein I was working as a volunteer. Later, I leant Braille script on my own. I started working with that NGO as a special teacher in the field,” she said.
Hurra says that initially she was identifying the students who need inclusive education. “In Bandipora district I had identified about 20 children who were in need of inclusive education. I taught them and two among those got selected Aligarh Special School,” she said.
“Besides two other specially-abled students who I taught qualified the 10th standard,” she said.
Hurra says that in Jammu and Kashmir, the government as well as private educational institutions lack basic infrastructure facilities.
“There is a need for more special tutors here and more importantly, infrastructure should be built-up for the CWSN,” she said.
Javaid Ahmed Tak
Padma Shri awardee, patron of JK handicapped association and a special tutor
Almost every two years, a survey is being conducted as to how many Children with Special Needs (CwSN) gets enrolled.
“In most of the districts of Jammu and Kashmir, more than 4000 CWSN are enrolled for the Inclusive Education,” says Javaid Ahmad Tak.
He said, “In Jammu and Kashmir, only 58 special educators were recruited in 2012. As of now only around 80 special educators are working to teach the students with different disabilities.”
Wheelchair-bound, Tak says that he has been associated with the Zeba-Apa Institute for Specially-abled children from 2006.
“In this institute, more than 100 differently abled students are enrolled who are being taught by the special tutors who we have hired from the Composite Research Centre (CRC) Bemina, “Tak said.
Tak has been working as a special tutor since 2006 and has taught more than 100 differently abled students.
Earlier, this year on November-08, Tak was awarded with the Padma Shri award by President Ram Nath Kovind in New Delhi.
Tak said that the secret behind receiving the Padma Shri award was the struggle of the disabled persons that inspired him to work for the social good for all those persons who were sailing on the same boat.
Recalling the ordeal of two decades back, Tak said, “In the intervening night of March-21-22 in 1997, I was at my uncles home and some unknown gunman barged in and fired upon me on my back in which one of my kidneys, part of liver, and a spleen was damaged.”
Tak has pursued a post-graduate degree in social work from Kashmir University.
He said that since then, he has been in service for the disabled persons and after three years in 2000, he founded a NGO Humanity Welfare Organization Helpline for welfare of the poor and disabled persons.
Special Educator at Blind School Baramulla
Uzma Majid was only 21 when she decided to dedicate her services in service of specially-abled-children.
Posted in blind school in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, Uzma says that she has been working for inclusive education since 2016.
The 27-year-old special tutor Uzma said, “I have been working on inclusive education and now I am working in blind school in Baramulla wherein different type of students are enrolled like Mentally Retarded (MR), Deaf and Mute and blinded students respectively.”
“In the school, at least 83 students are enrolled and I am teaching the students of 8th standard,” she said.
Hailing from Delina area of Baramulla, Uzma said, “I mostly teach the partially blind students by using the Braille script and in my class, at least eight such students are enrolled.”