Peshawar: Hassan Khan may be physically challenged when it comes to hearing and speech, but the 12 year old knew where to turn to when the school for special children in his native Dir turned down his request for higher studies.
“My name is Hassan Khan. I am a deaf and dumb child. Is education not my right?” Khan posted on his Facebook page.
Hassan Khan passed the grade 6 examination last March. When he went to seek admission in senior school, authorities at the the school for special children in Lower Dir told him they only offered primary classes.
“I and 13 other classmates of mine have been denied admission in grade 7 in my school where I have completed primary education,” said the message posted on Khan’s Facebook timeline.
Khan’s sister Sonya Khan, 13, and younger brother Faisal Khan, 10, along with 13 other students who are unable to speak or hear have passed the grade 6 examination at the Government School for Deaf and Dumb children in Timergara city of Lower Dir.
“We were denied admission because the school building and staff are not sufficient to offer education beyond primary classes,” Khan told News Lens through the Facebook messenger.
When asked what options he had, Hassan said he could either quit education or fight for his right to education. “I have chosen the second. The rulers in the province cannot hear pleas for the rights of children with speech and hearing impairment because we have no voice but I have started a campaign on social media to get across to them.”
Hassan’s father Amir Zad Gul who has been struggling to educate his children living with speech and hearing disorder has frequently called on authorities to help provide them higher education but they have failed to respond. He is worried because, he says, he does not want his children “to be burden to the society.”
“I want my sons and daughters to be responsible and educated members of the society,” Gul told News Lens on phone.
Article 26 of United Nation’s Declaration on Human Rights says “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”
Pakistan that voted on favour of the Universal Declaration when it was adopted by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948, has ratified UNDHR.
There are 14 schools for children with speech and hearing impairment in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where 1345 students were enrolled; 951 of these are male while 394 female, according to a report released by the Social Welfare Department of Khyber Pakhunkwha on special education for the year 2013-14.
The report says there are total 39 institutions to educate special children in the province. 11 of these are for the visually challenged, 14 for those with speech and hearing impairment and 14 for those with mental disorders and physically challenged children.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Minister for Social Welfare, Special Education and Women Empowerment Dr Meher Taj Roghani acknowledged the absence of middle and high grade schools for special children with speech and hearing impairment saying the ministry was trying to upgrade schools for special children in the province.
The province, she said, has four high schools for blind children and that too only for boys. There are no middle and high schools available for blind female students.
Roghani said special children faced many problems and addressing these was the ministry’s top priority.
“In this connection, the government has allocated funds for establishment of a skills centre and “tabdeli[change] centre” in Peshawar where special persons would get education along with vocational training,” said Roghani.
The provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also increased the job quota for disabled persons from 2 percent to 3 percent this year.
When asked about access to higher education for children like Hassan Khan and his 13 school fellows, Roghani said how could she address an issue that had persisted for 68 years overnight. However, she said, the government was committed to upgrade schools for the children with speech and hearing impairment.
“We have requested the chief minister to help upgrade 4 more primary schools in the province to a higher level,” Roghani told News Lens on phone.
Hamid Khan, President of the Federation of Deaf working for the rights of deaf and mute persons, said the government’s claims of being committed to resolving education problem of special children rang hollow in the absence of any tangible efforts.
Leave alone high school, he said that, the provincial authorities haven’t build a single middle level school for special children with speech and hearing impairment over the last 40 years.
“Children with speech and hearing impairment give up education after completing primary studies and become a burden on the society,” said Khan.
He demanded that the job quota for special persons should be increased to 5 percent in all government departments.
Meanwhile, Hassan’s father says he had talked to many government officials to guarantee education facilities for special children in Lower Dir but no one has responded.
“I can’t bear it when my children ask me why they cannot get admission in a school where other children are studying,” says a dejected Gul. “I don’t have answer to their questions about when they would be able to go to school.”