A teacher helps integrate hundreds of handicapped students back into the community
After he received the USA-Nepal Humanitarian award from Ambassador Peter W Bodde in front of a packed Ashok Hall in Patan on 10 January, Dayaram Maharjan went to the back of the auditorium and sat with his students so that they could collectively partake in the celebrations.
ALL PICS: HARIZ BAHARUDIN/TOH EE MING
Utmost importance: In addition to vocational lessons, children at Adarsha Shaulah Yuwak Higher Secondary School in Bungmati, also receive regular education with the help of braille books that their teacher, Dayaram Maharjan, makes himself.
Currently, the children live in three different buildings, moving from one to another has been a safety concern. There are plans to build a new residence and equip it with proper facilities for disabled children.
“I am happy that the award has encouraged more people to visit the school and support us,” said the 49-year-old, who teaches children with physical and mental disabilities at Adarsha Shaulah Yuwak Higher Secondary School in Bungmati.
Maharjan along with Dhurba Bahadur Raut, Hari Man Shrestha, Uttam Sanjel, Rotaract Club of Dharan, and Chunumunu Publications were recognised for their perseverance and significant contribution in the fields of health, education, and youth leadership.
In a country where disability is seen as a curse and schools have no resources to work with them, Dayaram has helped integrate hundreds of handicapped students into mainstream school environment. He started out 24 years ago when he saw a blind student at Adarsha struggling in class, because the teachers were not equipped to teach visually handicapped children. Maharjan learnt braille and then painstakingly translated textbooks, word for word, so that the visually impaired could study alongside their peers. When deaf children were admitted into the school, he started learning sign language too.
Maharjan does a soundcheck on a newly donated computer, which is installed with special software to help the visually-impaired students.
Having been abandoned by their families because of their handicap, many of the children that Maharjan taught had nowhere to call home. So in 1997, he established the Disabled Services Association, a hostel adjacent to the school, which now houses more than 40 children. Besides quality education and art and music classes, the school also provides vocational training in basket-weaving, coffee making, and massage therapy, so students can earn a living for themselves and become self-reliant.
But Maharjan admits his work is far from over. As the number of children that he takes in is always increasing, the living quarters are getting rather crowded. With the savings and donations he has accumulated over the years, the teacher is currently building a new hostel that is going to be completely disabled-friendly.
STRONGER NOW: Ghyaljen Lama was brought to Maharjan at the age of two with a severe case of cerebral palsy. Now, with therapy, Ghyaljen's limbs have grown stronger and he communicates through gestures.
WORD FOR WORD: Maharjan translates textbooks into braille with the help of a machine, one word at a time, so that visually impaired children in his school can study together with their peers.
FULL-TIME JOB: Maharjan enjoys reading to the children at school. He also conducts classes on his own whenever time permits.
Through all these years, Maharjan has refused to let society’s prejudice against children with disabilities define them, hoping that his school will change the prevalent mindset. “Earlier people would look at our students and call them unlucky. Now they see the children living and working as equal and active members of society and their attitude is slowly improving,” he says.
Dayaram Maharjan can be contacted at 9841490490. Those interested in helping out, please visit: http://dsa.org.np/donate/
Different but able. BHRIKUTI RAI
Peace of mind, AYESHA SHAKYA