Hope is the best panacea

Illiteracy and poverty are reasons enough to miss out on the opportunities for social and economic progress in India. When it is coupled with a physical impairment, one can only imagine how life turns from bad to worse. Rahul Raj, an 18-year-old boy from Nevada, Uttar Pradesh illustrates the plight of an individual stuck in many levels of discriminations.

Born into a poor family to illiterate parents among four other siblings, as the eldest and the only visually impaired, Rahul battled with a grim future every day before he connected to Eyeway. His father’s income from the inconsistent manual labor is significantly meager to feed a family of seven. There is nothing much his mother can do with the ceaseless domestic work. Cooking, cleaning and caring for four small children and the blind child have left her haggard. Thus, the persecutions of poverty appear to have snuffed the hope out of this family, at least for now.

Rahul stayed behind when his younger siblings went to the nearby village school, studying and playing together. He did nothing, except rue his misfortune and hear the murmurs of displeasure every single day. His parents not knowing what to do with the child, decided to send Rahul with their other children to school when he turned 10. He went to a mainstream village school in Nevada for the next three years with his four siblings. He was allowed to sit in the 4th standard classroom with the other students but was denied any participation in school exams or any other activities. The school wasn’t particularly keen on enrolling Rahul as he was visually impaired.

After three years of futile schooling, on the suggestion from one of his teachers, he decided to quit and join a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) camp in Nevada, away from his house. Since daily commuting was a challenge for Rahul, he moved closer to attend the camp for the next year and a half. In the camp, he managed to learn Braille and get some basic education, though he didn’t get any career guidance which he was looking for.
It was in 2016, after completion of the SSA camp and not knowing what to do ahead, that he happened to hear about Eyeway’s toll-free helpline on the radio. Brimming with curiosity on how Eyeway could possibly help him move forward in life, he contacted our helpline counselor. His sole interest in the conversation was fixed on the available educational opportunities. He also shared his concerns and aspirations. He wanted to gain education and employment in order to attain independence. He also said that being the eldest in the family he wished to financially support his parents and the younger siblings. Our counselor suggested National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) wherefrom he can give his 10th exams to be on the right track to pursue education.

Taking Eyeway counselor’s advice he enrolled with NIOS and completed his 10th exam by 2017. During this period he also remained in constant contact with Eyeway clarifying multiple doubts on education, employment, essential technology etc. Rahul’s latest call to the Eyeway Helpdesk surprised everyone. It was not the subdued and dispirited person the counselor was used to but a voice filled with confidence. He not only cleared his 10th exams successfully but wanted to study ahead in a mainstream school. Acknowledging his aspirations, Eyeway suggested Jayati Bharatam in Lucknow where he could enroll for his senior secondary education.

On follow-up, the counselor learned that Rahul had not only enrolled himself but also inspired nine other visually impaired friends of his to pursue an education at Jayati Bharatam. Eyeway hopes Rahul can make his dreams come true and redeem his family from their problems soon.