- April 12, 2019
- Posted by: Lerato GCE
- Category: GAWE2019 stories
Equality And Non-Discrimination
Education for children, youth and adults with disabilities is part of the Education 2030 agenda, but is often neglected by states and ministries of education. Furthermore, States need to acknowledge that well trained, paid, supported and qualified teachers have a key role to play in delivering the right to education for all, and commit resources to ensure lifelong and inclusive teacher trainings.
My name is Reshma Chepang*. Chepang is one of the marginalised castes in Nepal. I am from the southern part of the Dhading district of Nepal. My story begins 18 years ago, when I was born as the 5th child to my family, with two older sisters and two brothers. I belong to a poor family and my parents make a living from farming. Both my parents work hard on farms, collecting grains for us to eat in the evenings. Sometimes my siblings would also join my parents in the field doing minor work such as looking after other peoples cattle, carrying the grass from the field, cleaning cow dung as well as looking after the grains. Any work that would ensure we have food on the table.
I was often left alone at home every day. I could not contribute to the the family’s dinner. Not because I was a privileged nor a spoilt beloved child. But because I am born disabled. The whole left part of my body is paralysed and I cannot move that side of my body. I need support to do every little thing. My disability always made me feel as a burden on my family. I always felt I was using up their productive time in my care and support.
When my siblings were enrolled in school, I stayed at home having no friends to play with and left thinking what will become of my life, what does the future hold for me, a young person with a disabilities. I also wanted to go school but the school was about 2 hours far from my house and the roads were difficult. Every day when my siblings used to dress up in their school uniform, and take their set of books in their hands, walking to school with their group of friends, I used to curse my life and question why was I born disabled?
I still remember the day when my father came back home from hard day of ploughing the field. I was in my bed, and a social worker sister came to our house. She came to talk to my father about work in the field but also told my father about an informal adult class in the village and suggested my mother enrol in the class, which was just for 2 hours in the daytime.
When my mother started attending these adult classes she took me along with her. In the class, middle aged women and mothers were taught about the basics of alphabets and numbers. I used to sit in a corner listening and also learnt what was being taught in the class. I was so excited about learning that in a couple of months I could read and write Nepali alphabets.
I still wanted to learn more and more. I asked my father to enrol me in school. After insisting every day and night, my father finally decided to admit me into a formal school.
I was so happy that I finally got the chance to keep learning. In my new school my happiness soon turned to sadness as I faced many challenges. It was too difficult for me to walk four hours daily to and fro from school. In the initial days, my sisters held my hand and assisted me in walking, but this caused them to be late for their own classes. Their behaviour towards me changed and they told me not to go to school saying, “you are disabled and there is no point of going to school because you are not going to do anything in life. It is better for you to stay home and help in the house. House work does not require education.” In their anger and frustration, they even tore my books. My friends also used to tease me and even my siblings. They all felt embarrassed and disappointed of me and my disability. I was so helpless that I could not get support from any one to continue school. I left school and stayed at home.
And then a miracle happened
It was a month of April 2014 when some groups of young people were walking around the village with the posters and stickers in their hands. A group of girls came to my house saying they were celebrating the Global Action Week for Education, advocating for mainstreaming all the persons with disabilities to the education frontier. They asked my parents to send me to school and my mother responded saying that I could not go to the school because of the challenges I had previously faced. Later we came to know that those girls were working for an organisation called Aasaman Nepal and the organisation was part of the campaign led by National Campaign for Education Nepal (NCE Nepal), which promotes the right to education for all in Nepal. After knowing my situation and my desire to go back to school those sisters convinced my parents and sisters about the importance of education. Finally, I was hopeful and I started school again.
One of the sister from the organisation used to come to my house regularly to support me in my studies. The teachers were very supportive of my journey. I received stationary and uniform assistance from the organisation every year. This meant my parents did not need to worry about my stationery materials. In my class room, some of the scholars used to tease and laugh at my disability and the fact that I was in grade 7 when I was already 15 years old. Due to disability, my body is larger than other children. Even the teachers used to stare and laugh at me. I had no alternatives but to avoid the teasing. For many months, I felt very embarrassed in the class and lost my concentration in the study. Every time when the teacher used to gaze at me, I felt insecure.
One day, I shared these problems with the sister who was regularly coming to my home from the organisation. She along with her other colleagues, discussed this issue with the head teacher and the teacher who was making me uncomfortable in class. With the support of the organisation, the teacher apologised and promised to not repeat his actions. This gave me huge relief to know that now I could study without any fear in school.
Dreams do come true
Now I am one of the most versatile students at my school. Because of the Global Action Week Campaign of NCE Nepal and the continuous support of sisters from Aasaman Nepal, I got chance to take part in extracurricular activities like poem competition, quiz context, essay-writing competition etc. I can now talk in a crowd with confidence. I now feel that I am not different from others, I can also do many things in life as normal people. My aim to become a teacher in the future and teach children that “every child is special and every child deserves to get love, care, affection and most importantly the right to education.” There are other scholars who are doing well in their studies despite their disabilities. Non-governmental organisations are providing support to them in terms of access, equipment and the counselling. My own father and mother are proud of my studies. I no longer feel like a burden to them. My mother feels proud whenever I speak in a crowd.
Now I feel that not everyone is fortunate to have a happy childhood, not everyone is lucky to get love from family and friends and still life gives you hope and if you get the right support and have strong determination to change things then, it is possible to find happiness and live a fulfilling life.
Reshma Chepang* is a pseudo name to protect the identity of the story teller.