Tumpa Pal was born without eyesight. But the daughter of a rickshaw-puller did not let visual impairment or her family’s poor economic background stand in the way of her scoring 93 per cent in Madhyamik.
Tumpa, 19, and 175 other visually impaired students were felicitated at a programme in the city on Sunday morning. Their indomitable spirit and hard work were rewarded with laptops, smartphones and digital recorders — all loaded with recorded lessons on the Higher Secondary syllabus for ease of learning.
The felicitation ceremony was organised by Dilip Loyalka, a founder-member of the Foundation for Differently Abled Persons. A chartered accountant and tax consultant by profession, Loyalka is himself visually impaired and has triumphed several odds.
“I used to record lessons and play them. Listening to the recorded lessons was easier and faster than reading Braille books,” said Tumpa, a student of Vivekananda Mission Ashram Abasik Drishtihin Shikshayatan in Haldia.
Her father, Murari Pal, bought her a recorder when she was in Class VIII. “She would listen to lectures on the recorder again and again till she grasped the lessons,” he said.
An avid listener of detective stories on radio, Tumpa aspires to be a teacher. A student of humanities, Tumpa scored 99 in mathematics, her favourite subject, in Madhyamik. But she could not pursue the subject in Plus II because it is “very difficult for visually impaired students to continue higher studies in mathematics”.
Subhadip Mondal, 18, also relied on recorded lectures and Braille books to score 94 per cent in Madhyamik.
The student of Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy, Narendrapur, aspires to study English literature in college and become a professor. “My immediate goal is to enrol in a good college after Class XII exams,” he said.
Subhadip’s classmate Saruk Shaikh, has similar dreams. The boy who scored over 90 per cent in Madhyamik is keen on studying English literature in college.
Among the 176 students felicitated on Sunday, nine scored more than 90 per cent and received laptops. Forty students, who scored between 75 per cent and 90 per cent, were given smartphones. The rest scored up to 74 per cent and were given digital recorders. All the students were given talking watches that would tell the time on pressing a button.
Taslima Khatun, who scored 79 per cent in Madhyamik, said she received immense support from friends and teachers.
The students were, however, worried about infrastructure support in college. “I don’t think our colleges and universities are equipped to deal with visually impaired students. There are not many books in Braille in the undergraduate or post-graduate levels,” one of the students said.
Loyalka regretted that only a small fraction of visually challenged people had the opportunity to go to school. “This is unfortunate. I hope the laptops, smartphones and digital recorders would help students pursue higher studies with little less difficulty,” he said.
The laptops and smartphones were also loaded with software that would read aloud any text to the students. “If they log on to any website, the software will read the text aloud. Besides, they can take pictures or ask anyone to take pictures of important documents and the software would read it aloud for them,” said an organiser of the felicitation.