In 2008, a young lady was hired on contract to teach specially abled kids in the city school. A year later, the authorities felt compelled to take her on rolls after she did what nobody has done in Kashmir so far, reports Aaqib Hyder
For her students, Farzana Gul, a teacher at the Modern School in Solina is sort of an angel. A resident of Rambagh Srinagar, she has been offering free tuitions to the specially-abled children since 2011. She joined the school in 2008 on contract bases. Seeing her passion, authorities took her on rolls permanently, a year later.
The oldest and only school for specially-abled children in Kashmir, Modern School shuts for months in winter every year, leaving students with no option to stay in touch with their studies. Moreover, no tuition centre or a specially trained teacher was around to take in these specially-abled students during vacations. Farzana had this realization in 2011 and she resolved to create an option for the students on her own. Quickly, she started free tuition classes at her home in Rambagh. Since then, there has been no looking back for her.
“Although these children can’t hear and speak, they are as intelligent as other normal children,” Farzana said. “Why should we leave them to God’s mercy and do nothing for them?”
Twenty-year-old specially-abled daughter of Khadija Bano, a resident of Hazratbal Srinagar, has been taking free tuitions from Farzana for more than five years now. Khadija says that her daughter’s education would have been almost impossible if it wasn’t for Farzana. Her daughter was suffering from depression when she was enrolled in the school where Farzana taught. As Farzana started taking care of her, Khadija’s daughter started coming out of the mental mess.
An employee at the school said Farzana’s different and compassionate approach of teaching pacifies and handles even the toughest kid in the school. Apart from academics, she pours her heart out in taking care of her students. Such is the bond between them that she invited several of her students on her wedding.
“She teaches and takes care of our children like her own,” Khadija said. “We can never repay her. In today’s selfish world, people like her can be rarely found. She is no less than an angel for us.”
As time passed, she extended her tuition class to summer season too. Currently, Farzana teaches 20-25 students completely free of cost almost throughout the year. The students come from different classes ranging from second to the tenth standard. A coloured banner outside her home reads: “Deaf and dumb society – Special classes for mute students”.
“Helping others gives life true meaning; helping specially-abled gives it the truest,” she said. “Real satisfaction and peace are attained through helping others; that is my understanding and mantra of life.”
Farzana was married in Chanapora, almost 3 km from Rambagh, a year back and it seemed impossible that she would continue the free tuition classes anymore. Even if she were to continue the classes at her in-laws, the distance from Solina to Chanapora was a lot to cover for the students after school time and it was also going to get difficult in winters. It is often said that things and priorities change after marriage, but despite all odds, Farzana didn’t shift her priorities. “I was worried about what would happen to my students. It felt like a betrayal to leave them like that,” she said.
She decided to shift back to her home in Rambagh for few months of winter to continue the tuition classes. In summers, she would first go to her home in Rambagh, teach the students there and then go back to her in-laws home in Chanapora. The routine was exhausting but her resolve and determination were unshakable. Many of her family members turned mad at her for not giving much time to the family and to herself but she remained completely hooked with her cause.
“At times, I would hardly get a chance to meet my relatives and even my family members properly which would make them angry,” Farzana admitted. “Their anger was as much justified and genuine as the work I was doing. As time passed, they became more understanding.”
To make the tuition process easier, Farzana had requested the school authorities to allow her to conduct tuition classes in the school premises only. Recently, her request was accepted and now she conducts her tuition class right after the office hours are over.
Apart from her selfless contribution in academics of the special-abled, Farzana also volunteers to act as translator for court cases of deaf and dumb people. This new work started in 2017 when a family came to the school where she teaches and asked the school authorities to help them with a court case of their deaf and dumb son.
Understanding the crisis of the family, Farzana volunteered for the task, and given her good record, the authorities considered her as the best option available. After that first case, she volunteered in all the cases that followed. Interestingly, most of them were brought to her notice by court officials and lawyers of different districts who had witnessed her selfless help in deaf and dumb legal cases.
After getting acquainted with lawyers and court officials of several courtrooms, she is now an expert on call – whenever a deaf and dumb case is to be presented, she is around. She recently travelled all the way to Sub-district court Bijbehara in South Kashmir from Srinagar to help to present the case of a local deaf and dumb person whose property was allegedly usurped by a relative.
In recent past, she has helped with more than half a dozen such cases in different district courts outside Srinagar, which include two cases in Budgam, two in Pulwama and three in Anantnag district.
“I am more than happy to have found another way to serve deaf and dumb people,” a content Farzana said. “Whenever there is a need for a translator in a court case, I try to be just a call away.”
Till date, she hasn’t asked for any kind of charges or reward for her service, be it the tuitions at home or help in legal cases. Despite increasing responsibilities after marriage, she is determined to continue the selfless services for specially-abled children in every possible way.
“I wish to do more for the betterment of specially-abled children in future. I have never sought any worldly returns but good deeds never go in vain. If not here, I will get a reward in hereafter Insha’Allah!” she said with emphasis on every single word. She has a conviction that she has the responsibility of helping this less privileged lot and that is exactly what she is doing.