Among the oldest candidates taking the SSC exams this year is a 38-year-old visually-impaired man; not all are lucky to find writers
Khar resident Suvek Sethi is understandably tense as he proceeds to a classroom to take his Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam. As the clock strikes 11,while the other students start writing their answers,Sethi,in a separate classroom,listens to his writer Akshay as he reads the first question aloud. Sethi has a vision for his life,but no sight. Still,nothing can deter Sethi from attempting the exam for the first time in his life,not even his age. At 38,Sethi is among the oldest candidates appearing for the SSC exam this year.
Sitting cross-legged on a wooden chair,Sethi starts revising his answers for the English exam in his room at the Manu Gomes chawl,satisfied with his performance in the papers till now. If not for my wife,I would never have attempted the SSC exam at this age and thought constructively about my life. Studying after a gap of 24 years is tough,but not impossible, he says.
Married last year,the partially-blind Sethi works as a sweeper at a government organisation in Parel. His wife,who is not visually-impaired,used to work as a data entry operator at the same firm till she went on maternity leave a few months ago.
Sethi studied at the English-medium Father Agnel Technical School in Bandra till Class IX. His eye developed a blood circulation problem that over the years took away his sight. After spending several years at home doing nothing,he enrolled himself for a course at the National Association for the Blind (NAB),Worli,but left midway. After surviving on odd jobs,including helping out at a vada pav stall,Sethi bagged the job of a sweeper two years ago.
After SSC,I want to take my HSC exams and complete my graduation. This will help me improve my job prospects. He is already planning to pursue a typewriting course after the exams.
Incidentally,Sethis writer Akshay Pele,a Class IX student at Dr Shirodkar High school,Parel,has a visually impaired three-year-old sister. Dr Shirodkar High School and Balmohan Vidyamandir school are among a few schools in Mumbai that provide writers for visually-impaired students every year.
The SSC board rule entails that the writers for all exams,except Mathematics,have to be in Class IX. Its Class VI for Mathematics. Ninth standard students are usually busy with their studies and hence cannot spare much time. Also,a student has to use the same writer for all the exams, says Pallavi Shankar,supervisor of the Integrated Education Department at the NAB,which provides helps Braille books,audio CDs,cassettes and tuition free to students like Sethi.
Schools and colleges are supposed to provide writers for their students. However,most just leave it to students to find one, said Meher Banaji,director,Happy Home and School for the Blind. Janata High school at Worli,too,has been regularly helping the Happy Home and School for the Blind with writers for their students. This year,14 students from the school have volunteered to write for the visually-impaired SSC students.
Rajshri More,a NAB teacher,says: Despite submitting relevant forms on time,we face problems every year. For instance,centres sometimes forget to get the question papers of subjects chosen by blind candidates and give them the regular question papers instead. There are several corrections we need to make in the hall tickets. Some times,writers back out at the last moment leaving us to scout for alternatives.