Sunday, June 17, 2007

Visually impaired student makes history

Studying History at University and preparing for the grueling Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) competitive examination without eyesight must be an outcome of insight and steely determination. Tariq Bashir has both. The 25-year old is one of the few visually impaired men who has entered into the highest seat of learning in the state. Now in the third semester of MA course in History, Tariq is also preparing for civil service examinations.

“I got selected for MA courses in my favorite subjects—history and geography. But I chose history, which will be my main subject in KAS exam,” said the soft-spoken and confident youth from Andoora hamlet of south Kashmir’s Islamabad district. A tape recorder, a bag of audiocassettes and help from friends and encouragement from parents over the years has helped Tariq to continue his studies. He records the lectures of teachers in the classroom and then listens to them twice, thrice, or till he gets to the bottom of lessons.

“This is my way of learning the subjects. Besides, I have a very sharp memory and remember 60 percent of topics in one go,” Tariq told Greater Kashmir at the KU campus. Tariq puts up in the KU hostel. “If I miss any topic somehow, my roommates and class friends record them for me,” he said. Tariq said he had shaky eyesight till 10th standard and was able to able to read from books and write with difficulty.

“Gradually my eyesight grew weaker which affected my performance in the matric examinations, forcing me to abandon studies for more than a year. One day I heard on radio that audio recorder has been found beneficial for visually impaired students in continuing their studies. I decided to opt for this technique; so far it has done wonders for me,” Tariq said, adding, “I secured first division in 12th standard and graduation.” Impressed by his determination, the KU authorities have arranged some audio cassettes and CDs related to the syllabus for Tariq from outside.

“University authorities, especially Head of the History Department, are very helpful but I wish if there could be a separate section of audio cassettes about different books and concerned subjects available in the central library of the university. It would encourage visually impaired students to continue their studies, learn about the outside world and study their subjects in detail,” Tariq said. He is also interested in learning computers.

“A JOSS software, designed for visually impaired students to learn computers is available in the Iqbal library. But there is no instructor to teach me,” he rued. Friends and roommates rate Tariq as one of the bright students of the university. “He is always absorbed in learning and has a deep knowledge and clear concept regarding his subject,” Tariq’s friend, Muzammil, said. Justice Zakaria Muhammad Yaqoob, a prominent judge of South Africa who recently visited the KU and is also visually impaired, had suggested Tariq to ask for a Braille system of learning in the varsity.

“In 2001, a census showed there are thousands of visually impaired people in the valley. But only handful of them reach higher level of studies; I am the first student to enter the KU. Government has the responsibility to provide sophisticated gadgetry including Braille system to these handicapped students at every level of education. It would encourage the visually impaired students to continue their studies.

They can then earn for themselves and would never feel a burden on their relatives,” Tariq said. Despite the ‘disability,” Tariq however feels that “one has to accept life as it is bestowed upon him. There are thousands of youth in Kashmir who have perfect eyesight but are literally impaired.”


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