Against all odds: Disabled child outclasses peers

January 28, 2023

PESHAWAR: The excitement and happiness of special child Zilkifl was worth seeing when he was cuddled by the managing director of the Elementary and Secondary Education Foundation to felicitate him...

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PESHAWAR: The excitement and happiness of special child Zilkifl was worth seeing when he was cuddled by the managing director of the Elementary and Secondary Education Foundation (ESEF) to felicitate him on clinching top position in his class despite being paralysed on both legs.

Equally excited were the parents and teachers of Zilkifl to see the special kid being awarded for the flying start of his academic career. Zilkifl was enrolled in grade one last year in the Girls Community School in Nawagai, Buner along with normal children. He took the lead of the normal students of his class to make his teacher and parents proud.

His success was specially commemorated at the function arranged to mark the World Education Day.

Managing Director ESEF Zariful Maani was the chief guest on the occasion, who picked the brilliant kid in his lap and appreciated him for his hard work and commitment.

Himself a teacher, Shaheen Said, the father of the special child, was the happiest man in the gathering. He was eager to educate his disabled child like his other children - two sons and three daughters. But due to non-availability of any school in his close vicinity, he was unable to do so.

Last year the community school was opened in the mohallah next to the one in which his house is located. Zilkifl is unable to move himself and his father takes him to school and brings him back. He wants some transportation arrangement for his son and other disabled kids, who cannot get education due to unavailability of educational institutions near their residence and lack of pick and drop facility.

Talking to The News, Zariful Maani said that like Zilkifl, some 5421 children with disabilities are enrolled in the 3,000 Girls Community Schools in different parts of the province. The stories of all of them are equally touching. Enrolling them in the community schools with other children was a brilliant idea to keep them in the mainstream instead of isolating them in the institutions. “This is an inclusive instead of exclusive approach,” he said.

The community schools provide the special children educational facility at their doorsteps enabling them to get education along with other kids of their family and community. These children were out of school because of the unavailability of educational institutions near their homes and their family members were unable to take them to distant facilities or arrange transportation for them.

Educating the special children is a big social problem in the province. These children cannot get the opportunity of education due to inaccessibility and poverty. In order to satisfy their cognitive dissonance for their inability to educate their disabled children, they say it is no use to put the burden of education on their children who are already struggling with their disabilities.

Zariful Maani observed that this social problem can be mitigated by establishing more informal educational institutions instead of formal ones in all the areas where schools are not available within a two-kilometer radius.

He said that there were 1,100 such locations in the provincial capital only where government schools are not available in two-kilometer radius and ESEF has come up with feasibility for establishment of 1000 schools but due to unavailability of funds they could not launch the schools.

It merits a mention here that impressed by the successful transition of the ESEF and impressive launch of its annual report, former provincial minister for education Shahram Tarakai had announced 1,000 community schools which had also been reflected in the budget last year. But funds could not be issued for the proposed projects and no new school could be set up.

It is also worth mentioning that the cost for establishment of one formal primary school for 100 students is Rs60 million, while a community school can be established at Rs35000 only.

It means that over 1,700 community schools can be opened with the funds sufficient for just one primary school. Also, the recurring cost of the formal schools are much higher than the community schools where only one female graduate is hired for nominal honoraria.

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