Zakiya Manzoor, a resident of Bijbhera is visually impaired by birth. Till the age of 8, she didn’t attend any school because of the non-availability of facilities for specially-abled students like her. There was no school in their locality or even in the whole of South Kashmir for children like her. Then after getting to know about the Zeba Institute of Inclusive Education, she got herself enrolled and pick up her studies directly from Grade 1st.
She was taught the Braille system and it helped her to cope better with her education. Zeba Institute was a middle school teaching only basic classes up to 8th. For her secondary school education, she got admission to the government girls’ school Bijbhera. “It was a normal, mainstream school and each and every student of that school was physically as well as mentally fit. I was an odd one out. This made me depressed and I started overthinking my existence. Questioning myself throughout the day became my routine and that was the dark phase of my life”, she said.
In 2016, after Burhan Wani’s incident, all schools were closed and it was an easy-going for her. But while she was in class 10th, she had to go to school daily and that suffocated her to death. Her classmate and teachers played a very negative and insignificant role in her life. They were not friendly and because of the ignorance of not knowing how to teach specially-abled students like her, they always made her feel left out. Her teachers had no notion of how to support or tutor her.
“Students were always gossiping because they rarely knew what being a visually impaired means. They used to talk behind my back by saying she come from home, sit on the bench and do nothing throughout the day. It always hurt my sentiments and made me suffer even more”, said Zakiya.
One of her teachers in that very school suggested her to complete her higher secondary education from Aligarh Muslim University. As he was himself an ex – Aligarhian, he informed her about various facilities provided to specially-abled students there. That thing motivated Zakiya to continue working hard and pursue her goals. She scored 82% in her SS exam and 89.5% in her HS exams. After passing with high grades, Zakiya made up her mind of doing civil services. She believes that she has the potential to change many scenarios of the education system in Kashmir.
“Being an IAS, or KAS is my dream and I will try my best to pursue it with utmost dedication and determination”, she added. Presently she is in her 2nd year of B.A Honours. For Zakiya, Aligarh Muslim University provided far better education as well as environment than Kashmiri institutions. She is influenced by many of her teachers who encouraged and supported her throughout her journey.
“I perceive life as a blessing from Allah. It’s all up to Him how to he choose to create us. We should be content with what Allah has provided us. Some people may be finding faults in His creation, but Allah loves us more than anyone else. He knows what’s better for us, so He shapes us accordingly. I strongly believe that Allah gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers,” Zakiya said.
Back to her childhood, she aspired to become a professor. But now she has a strong will to do something for her nation. She loves cricket and listening to music. Motivational speeches and audiobooks are what she loves to hear in her leisure time. While discussing the difficulties in her life, Zakiya said: “ My worst phase created a stronger version of myself. I felt difficulty while dealing with teachers who had no knowledge of teaching specially-abled students. The lack of ramps, scribes and one class down policy of JKBOSE has always been affecting me. Personally, I have witnessed it many times how I was kept waiting for scribes during the examination. Not only this, schools forced us to two-class down exams. This seriously disappointed me at times. ” Her suggestion to other specially-abled people is: “Don’t look down on yourself. You’re more capable than you think you are. A lot of mouths are talking indifferent things about you, but never pay heed to such gossips. Allah has created you differently, so be different from others. ” Zakiya wants people to remember her as a strong and stalwart girl, who never give up before the obstacles of her life.
She’s a girl who lived to her fullest.
Only few of the stories won’t justify and appreciate their dedication, determination and courage to change themselves after surviving in real struggles. We all have to put forth our efforts in providing them with a helping hand in every field. Let’s try to be empathetic towards them not sympathetic. Let’s make it a point that if we can’t motivate them, we should not even try to de-motivate them by our harsh comments. They are the real hero’s in life and each and every Kashmiri should be proud of them. Here goes some of the wise thoughts of Muniba Mazari – the iron lady of Pakistan:
- “We are all perfectly imperfect and that’s perfectly alright.”
- ”When you accept yourself, the way you are, the world recognizes you.”
- “You are the hero of your own life story, and Heroes never give up.”
- Inspiring story of KAS officer Reyaz Beigh: ‘Don’t see us as disabled, we are differently-abled”
- Rising above disability: Shaheel Mohammad, Founder of Special cell of Kashmir University
(Author is an engineering student and she can be reached at email@example.com)