Special education in Pakistan


Bahri Karam Khan

Five years back from now, one summer evening, while I was sitting in my house-lawn, my elder but hearing impaired son Wajid Khan came there and sat on a chair lying close to me. He seemed more relaxed and happier than in routine because that day his HSSC (part-II) examination’s result came and he secured first division. Yes, he was student of an inter-level school for such like children in the federal metropolis. While boarded there, he also did four IT courses. Since there existed no arrangement for further study either in that school or any other, therefore, he got free for a job whatever and wherever. He thus, in his signs-language, asked me to let him know when and how he could get a job. I could hardly understand the signs-language he spoke in and thus faced inconvenience in responding to this tough question but ultimately did succeed in assuring him “very soon Insha’allah”.
Wajid’s story would perhaps not be different from other suchlike children’s. His birth caused immense jubilation not only to me but also to my family. During his second year, I apprehended about his being deaf. However, when reached two, my apprehension converted into certainty. Accordingly, I took the child to a local pediatrician who, in turn, referred him to an ENT Specialist. The latter, after having necessary tests, gave his clear opinion that child was deaf by birth and would thus be dumb as well. He prescribed ‘hearing aid’ to him and also advised to get him admitted in a special education institution established for suchlike children, one fortunately functioning in Swat as well. I accordingly got him admitted in that institution
The school had a mini-bus which however didn’t deliver ‘pick and drop’ service beyond municipal limits. So, I had to bring the child daily from my village 12 kilometres away from the town. Wajid was an intelligent child and thus was liked by all his teachers. The school was however up to 6th class and on passing the same another round of my mental and physical exertion started. I contacted almost all the schools in both the provincial and federal metropolis but nowhere did boarding facilities exist. In Islamabad, the National Special Education Centre at H-9 had a hostel which however hadn’t by then started for some reason. Soon after the same got started, Wajid was admitted in that school.
Wajid passed his SSC and then HSSC examinations in first division from this school. During his schooling, he all along stood over-confident and never gave impression about his being disabled. The reason was his school used to be frequently visited by the VVIPs from the federal government. This created a great deal of confidence in the students. They were in the impression that after completing education, they would become officers and nothing less. But it has now been five years over Wajid’s getting free; he is as facing career barriers as was at the time of posing tough question on me. No one is there to respond to his that question.
Wajid’s story is not the only of its nature, nor is the question posed by him. Hundreds like him are having similar stories and similar question which are ‘eye opener’ for those at helm of the affairs in government. But, what the ruling elites do other than lip-service on the score? The government is also spending billions of rupees on provision of grand buildings, sophisticated tools and implements, logistic facilities and, of course, high salaries to the administrative and teaching staff in these centres. But see their output——much ado about nothing. A child comes out of the centre with a lot of hopes and aspirations but soon after feels that he is of no use other than seeking a job which no employer is willing to grant. And eventually frustration is his destiny.
Vocational skills are primarily included in ‘study plan’ of such students with main focus on the same. Its objective is to ensure whosoever coming out of the institutions, if presumably fails to find a job, should find him in a position to have its own job. Second, separate two percent quotas in service are reserved solely for hearing impaired persons. Modus operandi for filling this quota should be that Commissioner at divisional and deputy commissioner at district level be tasked to maintain merit list of such persons and make their appointments, purely on merit, to posts in their share in all departments. Third, certain percentage of the teaching staff in special education centres for HIC is reserved for such persons. And last, as an immediate relief, internship program is sanctioned for all the matriculate and over matriculate persons. These are all what can be done for them.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Swat.