If we cannot see the world, let’s do something special so that the world can see us,” reads an ode to the visually impaired on one of the walls of the Special Education Complex in Hayatabad.
The complex is an initiative of the federal government to educate children with mental and physical disabilities and improve the quality of life of those who may otherwise be neglected in society.
It provides formal education till grade 10 along with a host of other facilities, including a sports ground, an indoor gym, a music and television room, and a vocational training centre for female students. The centre imparts skills to girls so they can provide financial support to their families. In addition to this, students also participate in sports and debate competitions.
Riazullah, 18, is a visually impaired multi-instrumentalist who has learnt to play the guitar, drums and piano.
“I am getting an education and also attend music classes because I want to compose my own music and create an environment which I can enjoy without anyone interrupting me.”
Riazullah says many people considered him to be incapable and dull, but the audience he enthralled at the complex begged to differ.
Riazullah’s interest in music is not dampened by not being able to see his audience. He said he started singing at the age of five and will continue to pursue his dream, adding that the school’s administration facilitates him with everything he needs to achieve his ambitions.
Presently, 461 students are enrolled at the complex, Special Education Complex Director Asad Khan told The Express Tribune. All the children are provided free education, accommodation and transportation, he said, adding that the complex has seven buses which pick and drop students from around the city.
Habibullah, who teaches students with mental disabilities, said some were challenged by birth, while others were handicapped during childhood and rendered permanently disabled.
“We treat them in such a way that their mental skills grow and impart practical life skills so they can live without their family’s support. We also teach them social habits to lead a better life,” he said.
Habibullah’s namesake Habibullah Khattak is in charge of sports activities. Khattak said they teach students how to read Braille, a form of language for the visually impaired in which characters are represented by raised dots, from first till seventh grade.
One of our students Adnan Shafi has even been a part of Pakistan’s blind cricket team, said Khattak. “Our society does not acknowledge the qualities these students possess. They can lead the country in many fields if given proper attention.”
According to non-governmental organisation, Helping Hands Pakistan, there are 2.8 million disabled people in Punjab, 1.4 million in Sindh, 0.5 million in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and over 0.2 million in Balochistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2013.