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Kanudaskathi: Bringing hope for people with disabilities

Bablu was an energetic young man, who was a trained electrician by profession, went to Saudi Arabia in search of fortune in 2003 just like many other young men and women from Bangladesh, especially from the rural settings.

It didn’t take him long to get a job at a construction site because he was skilled in his trade. But little did he know what providence had in store for him. While at work one day, he got terribly injured in an accident that left him with a shattered spine.

For several agonizing months, Bablu received treatment in a hospital in Saudia Arabia, but without any luck – he was by then permanently paralyzed from his heap downwards. So, later that year, he came back to his ancestral home in Kanudaskathi village in Rajapur upazila in Jhalokathi, one of the southernmost coastal districts of Bangladesh.

When he was fully functional, one thing that Bablu had never done in his life was sit idle at home. Unfortunately, he had now to endure with what he hated the most. He didn’t have anything to do and the once-enthusiastic youth was slowly sinking to a state of deep depression, thanks to the kind of insensitivity that people are known for showing towards people with disabilities.

He just couldn’t accept the fate that he would have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

But his family and closest friends never gave up their faith on Bablu; they kept on inspiring him until he finally decided to rise again. Having gone through the agony of a “person with disability” for a long time, Bablu knew exactly what he was going to do.

With help from his ever-supportive family and friends, Bablu established a cooperatives society for the unemployed young men and women in his locality. His permanent tie with the wheelchair couldn’t hold him back from doing everything he needed to do to make his work meaningful. Soon, many young men and women from his neighborhood became self-employed by taking help from Bablu’s cooperatives society.

Then, he was thinking about doing something more meaningful. “I realized that disability couldn’t be a curse for anyone. But unfortunately, I saw how children with disabilities were neglected by their families, communities and the society,” said Bablu, whose full name is Nuruzzaman.

So, he started pondering over how these children could be mainstreamed. After consulting some like-minded people from his community, the idea of establishing a school for specially-abled children came.

Hence came Kanudaskathi Protibondhi Biddalay – Bablu’s school for children with disabilities – in 2011. The school was built on land owned by Bablu’s family. But initially, he struggled to find teachers.

“After struggling for a long time to find teachers, fortunately, I found some interested volunteers. Initially, they were trained on how to teach children with special needs,” Bablu reminisces.

The school now has 19 teachers, all of whom had been giving lessons for free, as Bablu on kept trying to manage government funding for his school.

In 2015, Young Bangla, one of the biggest platforms for the youth in Bangladesh, recognized the service Bablu was doing to his community by giving him the Joy Bangla Youth Award.

“Things changed magically after that. The award did two great things for me. First it blooded my veins with a flow of newfound energy. And second, it showed me the avenues that I had been searching desperately for so many years to take my school to the next level,” says Bablu.

After getting the award, Bablu attended a number of programs organized by Young Bangla and in one of them, he got to meet Finance Minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhit. He didn’t waste that opportunity to place the case for his school before the minister.

“I can still remember the encounter vividly. Meeting the minister was a significant turn of events for me. The minister was moved by my story and promised to look into the matter,” Bablu reminisces with gratitude.

With further guidance from Young Bangla and help from the finance ministry, Bablu managed to get his school registered under the government’s Monthly Payment Order (MPO) scheme, thus ensuring a monthly salary for his teachers, who, so far, have been working voluntarily. He also received some funds for his school from other sources.

In 2016, Kanudaskathi Protibondhi Biddalay got selected for the Sheikh Russel Digital Lab (SRDL) project of the ICT Division. His school received 10 laptops under the SRDL project and is now giving computer lessons to a host of young men and women from the locality.

With some invaluable help from his community and locality, Bablu has recently started another school and is currently working day in and day out to make it matter. He is also planning to set up a medical service in his area for people like him.

The fact that he cannot walk hasn’t done his brain any harm; it’s still filled with many wonderful ideas, especially for the welfare of people with disabilities. He thinks that despite all the government initiatives and policies, a lot more has still to be done to bring them to the mainstream.