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I am not a big fan of zoos for reasons obvious to animal lovers and animal rights activists, but since there aren’t too many opportunities where to take students who are blind and visually impaired, we decided to go to zoo anyway. I did suggest to go to a music venue or a game park which all students can enjoy equally, but limited financial resources keep recreational activities to a minimum and at a low
The center where I am staying is running a school for blind – The School of Happy World – which is two years old and only has seven students. The students range in ages from 7 to 12 and are either in first or second class. Only one student lives outside the center with his family, and the others live here, far away from their villages and families. Still they are quite lucky to be receiving an education since the government schools are ill-equipped to provide education to students with disabilities, and therefore they are excluded from schools.
The School of Happy World is a home to six children and every once in a while there is just enough money for a field-trip. Some of you have asked me “How will
they enjoy the zoo since they can’t see?”, and it is a valid question to ask. Some of the students in the group are visually impaired so they share with others what they see. The system this group of students has developed is astonishing. They help each other move around by holding hands and informing each other of obstacles on the road such as steps or mud puddles, they help one another to the bathroom and the ones who can see explain quite enthusiastically and descriptively everything around them.
There were other components of the zoo which made this a memorable visit for the students and I, which were the powerful smells of animal waste and their unanswered howls. Animal rights aside, this alone can be a guide for the blind persons because all
throughout the zoo you can hear animals howling. I assume it is because of the poor conditions in which the animals are living. This is the dirtiest zoo I ever visited and I could continue for pages about the animal abuse there, but it is necessary to remember that in a country like Bangladesh there are human rights which still need to be granted and protected before one can begin to think about issues as animal rights.
About 13 million people in this country are disabled, including physical, speech and hearing, visual and intellectual impairment. Sadly, most of these impairments are due to malnutrition, lack of clean drinking water and no access to affordable health care. Furthermore, most of these impairments are preventable with minimal health education and some basic services. Because of such a high rate of disabled persons, it is hard to believe that government hasn’t done more to prevent these impairments or to provide services to persons who are disabled so that they could have a chance of earning their own income. This is why it is admirable to look at The School of Happy World and their objective to educate these children to be self-dependent.
Although, the size of the school is very small, their hopes are big and with increased funding they are prepared to accommodate more students. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even have enough resources to create an environment for these children where they can play more and will be able to learn many other things outside of this center?! For now, their basic needs are met which is more than you can say for millions of others who are still waiting for their turn.
Posted By Danita Topcagic
Posted Jun 22nd, 2008