Shilpa, Karuna, Saniya, Seema, Sangeetha and Nikita are getting ready for college, helping each other to ensure that all the necessities for the college are packed in the bag.
They were eagerly waiting for the college to open up after the Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown, like many other students in the country. However, the enthusiasm of these six young girls to go to college is something different and very special. For them, going to college is not just pursuing higher education but exploring a new world also. There are countless knowledges, wonders and adventures waiting for them to be experienced and explored for the first time in their life.
Yes!!!!Going to college is very special for these children because throughout their school life, they were in a residential school for blind children in their home town. They never experienced a world other than the school and family; they have never been to an atmosphere where blindness is not very common. As visually impaired children by birth, all of them studied in Matoshree Ambubai Residential School for Blind Girls (MARSBG) in the Gulburga district of Karnataka. Currently they are pursuing first PUC (History, Economics and Political Science) from Government First Grade College, HSR Layout , Agara, Bangalore, supported by Mitra Jyothi’s women empowerment drive.
The support by Mitra Jyothi for higher education opens up the doors of wide exposure in their life. This is the first time, they are far away from the place where they born, this is the first time they are sharing their classroom with sighted friends and interacting with them about the syllabus, this is the first time they are enjoying the adventures of daily travel to and from the institute, this is the first time they are walking along the road to reach their college without anyone’s help, above all this is the first time they are going for a healthy competition with the common world.
The journey from a special school to a mainstream higher education institute is not very easy for a visually impaired girl especially from an economically backward family in a remote village in our country. Mitra Jyothi’s women empowerment program plays a vital role here by supporting them in accessing mainstream education in colleges by providing them hostel accommodation, guidance along with necessary trainings and other economic support.
Life in Mitra Jyothi is not only giving them the opportunity to access higher education but also helping them to be empowered to live in the real world. Being supported by Mitra Jyothi, they are getting the opportunity to explore our other prestigious programs like the Braille press, Talking Book Library, Life skills and Computer Training for the visually impaired. Audio books are an integral tool in the lives of the visually impaired for higher education and any other knowledge-gaining process. Basic knowledge of computers is also essential in the present world.
Shilpa, Seema and Sangeetha are from Gulburga district; Karuna, Saniya and Nikita are from Bidar district of Karnataka. All of them passed their SSLC examination with first class and distinction marks. All of them were very happy in their school and they become excited when they speak up about their school life. However, while they were growing up it was a nightmare in their mind about what there is after the school. They were afraid that their socio-economic conditions may put a full stop to their future. The higher education options are comparatively lesser in small towns/villages and for children with special needs the accessibility is further less. The parents of these girls are in an economically backward situation so it is not affordable for them to send their children to cities where higher education options are more. However, knowing about Mitra Jyothi from their seniors in school not only inspired them but made them envision dreams of higher education also.
All of them are very excited to go to college, studying new subjects, getting new friends and exploring extra-curricular activities. They started visualizing about a life after college, they started dreaming about gaining more and more knowledge, they started envisioning about their favourite career, they started picturing in their minds the day when they could support their families and support many children like them. Quoting the words of Saniya, ‘We could go to college and start dreaming about a career and socio-economic security only because of Mitra Jyothi. There are many children like us who are not even getting opportunities to go for primary education. Many girls, who are blind, are not even allowed to step out of the home as their parents are anxious about their security. In my life, I wish to live for the upliftment of such children, for that I will study hard and achieve a position which will help me to complete my wish.” Little Saniya wishes to become an IAS Officer and for the others becoming a lecturer is the dream.
In our country, it is still largely experienced that people with visual abnormalities have limited opportunities for education and employment that further restricts their economic development and social security. For a blind woman from a backward socio-economic status, these hindrances are several times higher than a man from a similar status. Mitra Jyothi plays a vital role here, by bringing them to the mainstream society through our women empowerment drive, a part of our Independent Living Skills (ILS) program. The purpose of this drive is to encourage rural women with disabilities to go for mainstream education in colleges /universities by providing them with a hostel accommodation which otherwise may not be affordable for them in urban areas like Bangalore where they get quality education. This mission aims to improve their employability skills so that they can meet job requirements and lead independent lives. It also creates opportunities for these women to gain exposure to urban culture and prepares them to face the competitive world.