Pakistan is highly exposed to climate-induced disasters, especially floods and it is evidenced that educational establishments have been disproportionately hard-hit by raging waters during such calamities. In Pakistan, school safety and preparedness is still a choice, rather than a mandatory requirement. There is a dire need to maintain the environment in and around school property so as to minimize the impacts of floods and to have the mechanisms in place to maximize a school’s resilience.

The 2010 floods ravaged agriculture, industries, buildings and properties in cities and districts across Pakistan and schools too were no exception. Government Primary School No 2, in Union Council MC-III, District Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, was almost destroyed by the furious flood waters. The school building was reduced to shambles and the children could not continue the educational activities.

As the national duty, The CHEF International teams identified the school and launched efforts for the rehabilitation of the educational facility in the wake of necessary survey. The school was rehabilitated and renovated in a record time.

“It has been a great blessing for us as now we study and play in a safe environment. The classrooms have been reconstructed while the play areas too are very neat and clean,” says Grade III student Talha, adding that all the credit must go to CHEF International for constructing the school almost anew.

Seven-year-old Sumaira was a normal child at the time of her birth. After couple of years of her birth, she started developing some hearing problems, which resulted in permanent loss of hearing.  Hearing loss is a combination of loss of volume (measured in decibels) and loss of pitch, or frequency (measured in Hertz). Her father, Abdul Wahid resident of the village Jogain, District Peshawar, was a labourer and his poor financial conditions hindered him taking his daughter to the doctor.

However, he managed some financial resources and took his daughter to the ENT specialist, who advised installation of hearing aid in the ears of Sumaira. As the cost of the hearing aid was beyond the reach of Abdul Wahid, he became worried about how his daughter would be able to get the hearing aid.  The persons with disabilities, especially the disabled girls, face stigma and other social issues in the society. The girls’ disability sometimes becomes the main obstacle in their wedding.

Meanwhile, Abdul Wahid came to know about the fact that CHEF International was offering medical services to the disabled persons to make the productive citizens. He contacted the CHEF International’s authorities concerned and was advised to bring his daughter for medical examination. Abdul Wahid took his daughter to the CHEF International’s health facility where the doctors fixed the hearing aid in the ear of Sumaira.

It was something more than special joy when Sumaira listened and talked to her father, mother and siblings. “I am over the moon. I cannot explain my joy in simple words. Me and my family are very thankful to the CHEF International for providing me the hearing aid,” Sumaira said, adding that now onwards she would be able to go to the school and get education.

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that hearing ability helps a child develop his/her speech and language skills. It’s critical to make sure that the child’s hearing loss is treated appropriately to reduce the impact that hearing loss has on his/her education.

There are many different estimates depending on the organization gathering the data, but overall hearing loss is fairly common in kids. One national survey estimated that about 15 per cent of kids have hearing loss, though in most cases the hearing loss was slight, and in only one ear in Pakistan.

Physically-challenged 12-year-old Abdullah was enrolled in Grade-VI in Govt High School Charsadda Khas, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As he was physically-challenged, it was somehow easy for him to attend the classes on the ground floor while he a primary grade student. After his promotion to the Grade-VI, his classroom was shifted to the first floor and walking upstairs to attending the class became very difficult for Abdullah.

However, Abdullah continued to attend the school which was devastated in the wake of the worst flood in 2010 which rendered millions homeless and livestock, agriculture and businesses penniless. The playground and other rest areas were totally destroyed by the floods raging waters.

Abdullah would usually spend all his time in the classroom because it was difficult for him to come downstairs, play or eat and then go upstairs to attend lessons. Even his classfellows were found reluctant in helping him keep in their accompany.

Fortunately, CHEF International’s team visited the school and the local communities and teachers apprised them of the problems being faced by the students. It is recommended that school facilities should allow all students, with or without handicaps, to fulfil their education without hindrance. The facilities should also act as a base for the local community’s lifelong learning experience, and should always be ready to be utilized as an emergency shelter in case of fires or earthquakes. Therefore, moving forward with making school facilities barrier-free is an important challenge.

CHEF International renovated the school, restored its playground and embedded the facilities including ramps and railing bars for the children with physical disabilities. The promotion of barrier-free school facilities must be mandatory to facilitate children with disabilities,” says Sohail Ayyaz Khan, Chief Executive Officer, CHEF International, adding that these facilities should be among the fundamentals of the structural design & planning of barrier-free schools. However, he added that it is difficult to say that it has been done to an adequate level in Pakistan.

Historically, special education research has focused on placement and service-delivery options rather than on the broader school environment. CHEF International is playing its role and putting in efforts to organize education for students with disabilities.

After flood our school ground was covered with mud. WE were unable to continue our studies.  When a team of CHEF International came to our school for screening they talk to me and my teachers. I told them that as my class room is upstairs so the basic problem is for me right now is to use stairs with a school bag. Then the team has a discussion with my class teacher and school Principal.

They also renovate our school and build ramps and installed railing bars. In next week my class room was shifted down stairs was shifted down stairs. one day my father came to school  to talk to my  teacher about my academic progress there he noticed these ramps and vision bars and ask a teacher about it . After being told the main concept of this thing s. they realized that this was the training outcome which make then realized about issues faced by a Person with disabilities.

Visual impairment, although it can occur at birth, it is not always present from childbirth. Visual impairment can be caused by several traumatic events or diseases that affect the eye sight of a person. Glaucoma (damage optic nerve), macular degeneration (destruction of eye parts which disables a person to view), cataracts (cloudy vision), lazy eye (hindrances in vision), optic neuritis (eye inflammation leading to permanent or temporary vision loss), retinitis pigmentosa, (retinal damage) and eye tumors (optic nerve or retinal damage) are examples of medical conditions that impair eyesight and can lead to blindness.

Muhib Gul, initially, felt some problem in his left eye but he ignored the seriousness of the issue and relied on some local medicine. However, after sometime, Muhib Gul’s left eye vision was blurred and someone advised him to visit Comprehensive Eye Clinic-Takhtbhai, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, being run by CHEF International to consult an eye specialist. After detail ocular examination, the doctor informed him that he had cataract in his right eye and cataract extraction was advised.

As the financial condition of Muhib Gul was not good to finance the expenses and shared the details with the administration of Comprehensive Eye Clinic-Takhtbhai. He was informed that his eye cataract surgery would be carried out free of cost. While, there would be no follow up charges as well.

“People who are visually impaired can touch and feel the items but they cannot see their colour or formation. Visual impairment including blindness means an impairment in vision adversely affects their life,” says Muhib Gul, adding that both partial sight and blindness make the lives of affectees very difficult.

Muhib Gul went on to say that vision influences one’s movement, estimation of space, stimulation of coordination and control, stimulation of exploration, incentives for communication and cognitive development. He further said that the vision impairments may not have a reason to interact with their surroundings.

Visual perception is altered for the student (this includes skills such as discriminating forms, people, objects, pictures, letters and numbers, as well as visual memory). They have a distinct disadvantage in seeing objects, so students who are visually impaired rely on tactile and auditory development. Their spatial perception is altered and they have difficulty with orientation and mobility. They need psychological and social adjustment.

“Comprehensive Eye Clinic Takhtbhai being run by CHEF International is fulfilling the national duty of providing vision to the deserving communities in and around Takhtbhai,” says Muhib Gul.

Having Muscular Dystrophy, nine years old Asad Jan was enrolled in Government Prmary School, Shakar Dhand, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. His disability became one of the major hindrances in his quest for education as his classmates would target his disability in routine conversation.

“My school and classfellows would always taunt me about my disability,” says Asad Jan, adding that the village children too would pinpoint his disability whether they were playing or studying. After being enrolled in the school, Asad Jan would go to the school on a tri-cycle but the bumpy road caused his fall twice while crossing the water rivulets.

The local communities’ members contact CHEF International for the provision of facilities for the disabled children in the school. CHEF International engaged the communities at large and the teachers as they themselves are often unaware of the potential of children with special needs.

CHEF International recommends that the children with special needs must be enrolled in schools. After the assessment of their disabilities by a team of a doctor, a psychologist and a special educator in schools, the child must be placed in appropriate educational settings.  As its particular methodology, CHEF International ensured the first step to including children with disabilities in mainstream schools by the provision of adapted school facilities e.g. ramps, water taps, toilets, special equipment and apparatus as well as making appropriate teaching and learning materials available.

“The government must introduce schemes to provide educational opportunities for the disabled children in normal schools so as to facilitate their retention in the school system,” says Asad Jan, adding that children with severe multiple disabilities who have difficulty in coping with regular schools be referred to special schools. He further said that inclusive education requires drawing up, implementing and assessing plans and policies that favour inclusive education for all.

Poorly adapted infrastructures and a lack of accessible learning materials are significant obstacles for the children with disabilities in government schools. This is particularly true in rural areas where increased levels of poverty, poor services and recurrent infrastructure failings exacerbate these existing problems for children with disabilities. School curricula that solely rely on passive learning methods such as drilling, dictation and copying from the blackboard, which further limit access to quality education for children with disabilities.

Eyesight is one of the most precious gifts of Allah to the mankind because it (eyesight) plays a pivotal role in our day to day lives. Our daily activities depend heavily on our eyesight. However, there are many people among us who have impaired vision and they suffer a lot due to this disability.

During the school eye programme, CHEF International identified a number students enrolled in Government Girls Primary School, Batakara, District Swabi, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, whose visual abilities were not up to the level due to refractive error or any other eye related problems. This was due to their impaired vision, that the students with this disability remained in isolation and depression due to the social stigma.

Nine years old Aqeela is the Grade IV student of Government Girls Primary School Batakara, She was identified with myopic vision in both eyes. Her father Saifullah Khan is farmer. As Aqeela could not see properly, it affected her study progression. She was unable to see properly and was rated in the average category of students.

She would always squeeze her eyes while looking at the blackboard, keep book very close to her eyes, often complain of headache. She would not explain her issues to her parents. It might be due to stigma attached to the disability. She kept the problem to herself.

CHEF International provided counselling to Aqeela besides getting her examined from eye specialist. Now Aqeela wears glasses and is gaining confidence with every passing day as her eyesight issues have been resolved.

During follow-up visits, Aqeela seemed very happy and she told CHEF International’s health counselor that after warring glasses she feels relieved, can play games and also help her mother in kitchen. Her teachers have noticed improvement in her behavior and grades as well.

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