A Reading Light

Moved by the plight of her blind nephew, Naza Bano shuns promising career options to help specially-abled kids like him. She shuttles between three districts to teach blind children how to read and write. Parrey Babar tells her story

Naza Bano

Every morning, Naza Bano, 27, travels around fifty kilometres from her native Sumbal village in Baramulla to Ganderbal, where she teaches Insha and Aaqib, specially-abled blind children.

Naza, who works as coordinator and field survey analyser with National

Association for the Blind (NAB), a Mumbai based NGO, is working for the welfare of blind and other disables in Jammu and Kashmir.

After earning her master’s degree in political sciences, Naza did a diploma in teaching blind children in the functional course, visual impairment and mathematics.

The inspiration to teach blind children came after her ten-year-old nephew Zufair was detected with blindness after birth. “I had seen problems he faces,” Naza said.

After joining NAB, in the beginning, Naza found it difficult to teach as the practice is inclusive. It refers to a model in which specially-abled students spend their time with other normal students. The idea is to help these specially-abled students get mixed experience by means of social interactions leading to further success in life.

“It is a very difficult job to teach a specially-abled child,” said Naza.

A specially-abled child is first admitted to a general school for inclusive education. And then they are taught basics of Braille mode.

Once in Ganderbal, Naza teaches two blind students for three hours a day at their home. In a week, a student is taught twice. Naza has to shuttle between Ganderbal, Bandipora and Srinagar, to teach eight students. For the rest of the week, students join normal schools for inclusive teaching.

“Before joining the organisation, I used to teach just one child, now our NGO takes care of over 150 such students,” said Naza.

During survey, Naza has travelled extensively looking for specially-abled children who could be taught. “But people are not always responsive,” said Naza.

Naza recalls one such case from Hajin where a blind student named Showkat’s parents didn’t allow her to meet him. “I discussed the programme with his parents but they were reluctant,” recalls Naza.

But Naza did not give up on Showkat and visited his house a week later, and successfully convinced his parents to let her see their kid. “When I talked to Showkat, he was more than eager to study,” said Naza. Showkat is the only student with the NAB who knows how to write the Urdu language with Braille.

However, despite the efforts, Naza is concerned about finances as running NAB’s Kashmir chapter costs over Rs 1 lakh a month. “We have introduced Braille kit and paper, supper wheel for drawing, and Braille computer,” said Naza.

Also, these specially-abled children are encouraged to use technology to communicate with their teachers and relatives. “They are taught to use WhatsApp chat and computer software like Jazz,” said Naza.

But to keep the show going, Naza and her team collect money by visiting schools, colleges and business houses.

Another issue that concerns Naza is the drop-out rate of blind students after they clear their board exams. “First we lack teachers who can evaluate the answer sheets written in Braille mode,” said Naza. “Second, their growth gets curtailed as we have no set-up for them in higher studies.”

Naza has taught Insha, the poster girl of pellet horror during 2016 uprising, and helped her clear her class 10 exams. “There were students like Nazima and Safial Gul, who secured distinctions in Class 10,” said Naza. “But we need proper infrastructure and funds for them.”

Despite spending half of her salary on travel, Naza has never applied for a government job as she feels content teaching blind children. “I could land in any other job, but who will take care of these children?”


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