Saima Ammar, Chief Executive Officer of Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness (PFFB) lost her eyesight at the age of two-and-a-half. Her optic nerve was totally damaged following a severe attack of typhoid in 1971. Saima’s started her education in Pakistan at the Al-Maktoum Special Education Centre, did her matric from Station School, and graduated from F G College for Women. Her biggest dream was to get a Masters degree in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University and to appear for the CSS exam. In the absence of a special seat for disabled under the quota system, she tried her luck through open merit, topped the entrance test, as well as the first two semesters at QAU, till she learnt that she was not eligible to appear for the CSS exam on medical grounds. “I immediately lost interest in studies. I thought why should I bother myself, because being blind, I had to work twice as hard,” she regretfully stated, hoping that this absurd law would also be done away with soon.
Unlike Saima, most people with disabilities are not fortunate enough to have lead a “pampered bund life,” as she describes it. When doctors in Pakistan indicated that there was no treatment for her particular atrophy of the eye, Saima’s uncle in London adopted her. She got admission at the Linden Lodge School, and then went to Chorley Wood College – the best college for blind people in England.
When Saima came to meet her family at the age of 18, she refused to return because she loved her people and culture. For a couple of years, she stayed home doing nothing because there were no decent schools for the blind. Initially, it was quite shocking because in London, she could do everything such as playing javelin, discus, tandem cycling, swimming, running, ceramics”, and home management. And here, nothing was possible.
After completing her Masters, Saima joined PFFB. While keeping herself abreast of the latest by listening to recorded cassettes she used to order from a talking newspapers association in UK, she wondered why something similar couldn’t be started in Pakistan? This led to the idea of recording textbooks. Today, PFFB has recorded courses in all arts subjects for students of class 5 up to BA of the Punjab , NWFP , AJK and Sindh Boards. These cassettes are being circulated all over the country, with over 3,500 people benefiting through free registered mail.
In Pakistan, when a person loses his sight, the attitude of most people changes because they think we can neither get a job, nor earn. The situation is worse in case of girls because it is thought they would never get married. The society refuses to accept your disability. People at home start giving you, bad food and bad clothes. In addition, the families of these persons are reluctant and in most cases they simply refuse to invest in their health and education. As a result, they are deprived of basic and advanced level educational opportunities. Families tend to believe that a Visually Impaired person will now lead an incomplete life in every sense of the world
All ophthalmologists should take a compulsory course on counseling. “Doctors need to tell parents that the child who is blind cannot- like the rest of their children – copy their actions by seeing. Parents need to be educated about various mobility tips, about how to develop a child’s other faculties, or how to feed him through the clock technique. The problem is particularly acute among the uneducated who, in the absence of appropriate guidance, are totally clueless about how to deal with disabled children.
With the problems our country is facing today it is essentially important not only to mobilize but also to orchestrate our skills and resources in such a manners that contributes to the development and further betterment of the whole community.
The road to the progress in any field particularly of special education is difficult one. Its not difficult due to lack of will or awareness to carry ourselves forward or grow but, due to lack of initiatives, skills and appropriate tools and equipment to meet the current challenges.
One should always be reminded of the facts that teamwork cannot materialize anywhere around the world without optimum participation of individuals for bettering their lots. Participatory approach is most logical and productive tool for galvanizing people strength to meet the difficult challenges and concerns that each one of us faces in today’s world.
She says “I have grown up facing numerous challenges and struggles in life and my experiences have always strengthen my faith further at my creator Allah Almighty who has guided me through the toughest of times to reach out not only to take care of my inner self but to reach out and bring solace to people who have been deprived of many things including knowledge, skills and above of all self esteem. Having tired my level best to reach out to people in need, I know that our road to progress needs undivided commitment and self less effort to help others. I completely understand the difficulty of representatives sitting in higher ranks and positions to continuously monitor the development projects of self enrichment and professional growth at the Federal level and keep track of them at provincial and local levels.”
“You can never doubt the ability of a few citizens to change the destiny of the whole nation”