From victim to crusader

20-year-old Pramod Kumar is in his final year of graduation. As someone who was born blind, Pramod went through his fair share of struggles, especially to pursue education. His two younger sisters, Gudiya (15) and Priyanka (11) are also blind by birth. All three siblings went to a special school for persons with disabilities in Tiloi, Uttar Pradesh.

Unfortunately, they were subjected to verbal abuse by their teachers on a daily basis. And despite repeated complaints, the school Principal refused to take any action. After Class 10, Pramod decided to move to another school. But the school authorities held back his Transfer Certificate, forcing him to pay a bribe for it. Pramod succumbed to the school’s demands, knowing well they were unreasonable.

This, however, didn’t change anything for his sisters or the other students of the school. And there came a point when Pramod couldn’t ignore the plight of his sisters anymore. He called the Eyeway Helpdesk seeking an intervention to voice their rights.

The advocacy team at Eyeway immediately set into action and contacted the Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) to stop the school from meting out unjust behavior to its students. Eyeway demanded that the Principal hand over Gudiya and Priyanka’s mark sheets as well as transfer certificates so they could enroll in another school. The BSA put us in touch with the Block Education Officer (BEO) in Tiloi who in response to our complaint, visited the school and instructed the Principal to release the required documents.

Following the BEO’s visit, the mark sheets were handed over to Pramod but the transfer certificates couldn’t be issued by the institution as it turned out to be an unregistered entity. On consulting with the BSA for the girls’ admission, we were informed that up to Class 8, students could apply to any school on the basis of their Aadhar card. Based on this information and the grievance redressal, Gudiya and Priyanka have now been admitted into another school.

Our advocacy initiative not only helped resolve the problem at hand but also empowered Pramod to fight for the rights of many other students in his district. To ensure that they don’t face the same issue as his family, Pramod has decided to file a collective complaint on their behalf in the offices of BSA and BEO respectively.

A sizeable section of the blind population resides in rural parts of India. They are unaware of the services and mechanisms put in place by the government for their welfare. The lack of knowledge virtually makes the existing apparatus inaccessible for those it is meant to service. While Eyeway is trying to facilitate and fill this gap of information, shouldn’t the authorities be equally responsible?