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Priyanka Gaikwad, a visually-challenged girl who came to the city two years ago, beat all odds to score an impressive 80 per cent in her HSC examinations. From travelling by bus to single-handedly navigating the busy traffic in the city, she has indeed come a long way.
A resident of Retwadi village, near Khed taluka, Gaikwad lives in the city with her elder sister. She had earlier lived in a government hostel. She studies in Fergusson College and wants to study law.
She had also spent two to three hours at Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalay, which helps visually-challenged students pursue higher education.
“We were given all the study material, along with audio files and Braille literature, which helped me a lot. Fergusson College had given us a MP3 player too, to hear our notes. In the beginning, I couldn’t concentrate on the lectures in the classroom, as I was constantly worried about how I would reach the hostel. I kept worrying about travelling the entire time. I kept telling my friends that I don’t want to study in Pune, because I can’t handle anything here. I always kept telling myself that I will never be able to do things by myself,” she recalled.
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Born visually challenged, Gaikwad lost her father at the age of one. She said she started going to school at the age of seven, as until then her family kept trying to get her eyes operated.
“As none of the surgeries were a success, my family decided to send me to a school for the blind in Alandi,” said Gaikwad, whose mother is a farmer. Not entirely happy with her scores, she is nonetheless pleased to have scored more than her Class X marks.
Another visually-challenged student who has done well in HSC examinations is Priyanka Khengre. A student of Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, Khengre scored 76.6 per cent.
Her first reaction, she said, was disbelief. “I never expected to score this much, as I belong to a Marathi medium school and here everything was in English. I had expected to score between 60-70 per cent,” she added.
Khengre said her entire family changed their life for her. “My entire family shifted to Chakan, so I could study here. But I stayed in a government hostel and used to attend classes in Niwanta till 11.30 am, before going to college from 12 pm to 5 pm,” she added.
She said she wants to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Computer Applications. While she finds Secretarial Practice the toughest subject, she managed to score 81 out of 100 in it.
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As most students were seen celebrating, one stood out.
Hussain Shaikh (18), from Modern College, scored 57 per cent in his HSC examinations. An orphan, who was abandoned by his family, Shaikh is a quiet child.
One of the few questions he answered was about his future plan, which is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.
The teenager works in Niwant’s Chocolate Factory and earns Rs 95 for every kilogram of chocolate he makes.
Founder and director of Niwant Meera Badwe said Shaikh is tough to talk to. “Even he doesn’t know who brought him to the rehabilitation centre in Yerawada, where he grew up. In Class XI, he had joined an industrial training school and some students there told him to come to Niwant, to shape up his career. When he came to us, he would barely speak. We insisted he live in a shared accommodation, which we pay for. There has been a gradual but visible transformation in him. It took him a long while to warm up to them. But he is a determined boy and will do well in life,” said Badwe.