Eighteen-year-old Rama Bhattarai has been blind since birth. The fourth child of Mr. Kashinath Bhattrai and Ms. Kamala Bhattrai, Rama is their second daughter to be born blind.
In the Morang district of eastern Nepal where Rama's family lives, there are no schools for blind or disabled children. With an historic prejudice in Nepal toward blind children as evidence of familial wrongs, Rama's future looked bleak. Many children afflicted with blindness and other disabilities suffer ostracism and isolation all of their lives; lives which, very often, are much shorter than normal Nepali children.
However, the door to Rama's opportunity opened when she was selected for a Nepal Youth Foundation Disabled Student Scholarship and brought to their special school in Dharan. Now Rama lives in the school's hostel with many of the other children in Gayan Chakchhu School for the Blind. Last year, Rama passed the final term examination for 7th grade in the first division, with the second highest marks in her class. Now, studying in the 8th grade, she is doing well in her exams, securing first division marks.
Rama is a bright young woman who hopes to work for the blind community in the Morang district in another two years, after she completes here studies. Knowing what it's like to function without sight will be an incomparable asset for understanding how best to improve conditions for other blind people in the region. As Rama learns how to master computer skills and finishes her education through NYF's Disabled Student Scholarship Program, she will, indeed, bring light where, for many others, there was only darkness.
Disabled Scholarship Program-Removing Barriers
In Nepali society children born with disabilities are believed to be cursed and are considered the result of past wrongs committed by the family. Not only are they are a source of shame for their families, who often try to keep them hidden out of sight, they are often viewed as worthless by the entire community. These beliefs in addition to widespread poverty and high unemployment make these children extreme burdens to their families.
The Nepal Youth Foundation’s Disabled Scholarship Program provides children with disabilities opportunities to be educated or receive vocational training so that they may live their lives in dignity and become productive members of society. NYF has emphasized education for the disabled since our inception in 1990.
The program, which covers all educational, medical, and living expenses, primarily supports children with impaired vision and hearing, because they are particularly likely to become self-sufficient adults who can give back to others in need. NYF’s social workers visit the students and meet with their parents and teachers at least every three months. The purpose of these visits is to monitor the students’ academic progress, ensure that their living conditions are suitable for studying, and determine if their disabilities are being properly accommodated. All students in the program also receive frequent medical examinations.
NYF’s scholarship program has positive impacts that extend beyond the students’ academic performance. The social workers have found that once students are enrolled in the program, they become much more motivated to be independent and their social behavior improves noticeably.
Thanks in large part to financial support from donors like you, the Nepal Youth Foundation gave scholarships to 57 disabled children in fiscal year 2010-2011. Seven of these children graduated from 10th grade and took the school leaving exam (SLC). This year, 37 or 76% of students in grades 1st through 9th successfully passed to the next grade. Seven or 88% passed the qualifying test to go on to 10th grade.
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