If one was to see Asif you would find nothing amiss. Animated, ever smiling, full of joy, prancing around in the mud, stones and gravel and in between iron bars and machinery where he lives at the construction site. But Asif is hearing and speech impaired. His parents who are construction workers and totally illiterate had accepted his handicap as fate. The concept of sending a child with 'special needs' to school was alien to them. (Schooling was never on their priority list anyways).
Our group chanced upon him when we went to teach and spend time with children of construction workers in Chembur. ( An activity of Vidya Varidhi Trust). Unperturbed by his handicap, Asif zealously wanted to learn anything that we could teach him. Within no time he learnt to write his name, recognize pictures, and loved to draw and colour which he was excellent at.Our initial hurdle was making the parents understand that each child needed schooling, and more so Asif.
Fortunately for us a friend working at the Deaf and Mute School was our key to get Asif admitted to Rochiram Thadani school. After much cajoling, the parents agreed. Elated and charged we embarked into getting all formalities done. But as they say - only when you jump into the river you know how strong the current is. We never anticipated the long list of "dos"that had to be accomplished. From getting a birth certificate done,to getting Audiographs, trips to Ali Yavar Jung Institute for ascertaining his hearing and speech limitations, to JJ Hospital, Byculla where he would get a handicap certificate,etc. It is we who were getting educated in the bargain.
Finally last August he started school. Considering his age he was put into vocational training plus basic learning skills in maths etc. Last week when we were called by his teachers to collect his report we were more then thrilled to see that Asif had scored 59% marks. From 0% to 59%. Wow !!. The credit goes to him and also his mother who after all the initial hesitation, religiously sent her child to school and had him participate in all the extra curricular activities.
We wish Asif all the best for his future, though a long way yet but slowly and surely he will get there.We are thankful to our friends and family members who have extended a lot of monetary help in our endevour. Very soon Asif will get a set of new hearing aid too. There is considerable improvement in his speaking and listening skills.
(project members- Lalita Subramaniam, Geeta Balram, Sandhya.)