- 20 Jul - 26 Jul, 2019
THE DARKER SIDE OF LIFE
- 07 Apr - 13 Apr, 2018
The day started like most days. I went off to work, took my classes as usual and carried on with my responsibilities.
Around mid-day my Boss called me into her office.
I had been working with Mrs. Shahwaiz for a number of years. She was an extremely sensible woman. I appreciated her mentoring as well as her on-hand, help which she was ever ready to offer me.
She seemed rather serious when she asked me to come in and sit down.
“Yes miss! How are you?” I asked as a preliminary.
“I am well, Saima. How are you feeling? I hope you’re doing well. You don’t need to take on too much work-load, you know. I’m willing to hire an assistant for you.”
“No no, Mrs. Shahwaiz, I like doing things on my own. I will let you know though, when I’m not up to things. Thank you so much.” I was genuinely grateful for her care.
“Ok then,” she continued matter-of-factly.
“There is a new student in your class. His name is Asad Owais. He is opting for Literature as an optional subject and needs special attention. His mother has supplied all of his documents, medical and psychological reports. His file is quite detailed. I want you to go over it carefully before we decide if we want to enrol him.”
“Yes I will.”
I became immediately interested. If we couldn’t help these kids who would? Being teachers meant that we should help everyone, and I headed on to the Students Affairs to look at his file before home time. His first class was a week from now and I wanted to do my research tonight if possible.
I found out that at the age of three he had been surgically operated and had received a cochlear implant.
He was born with profound hearing defects and had been selected as a prime candidate for an implant at the age of 3. I hadn’t heard about this before and I began to take notes. I will research on this tonight, I decided.
I looked at his picture. He had an intelligent, a sort of all knowingly look about him. I looked at the applications that his parents had supplied regarding the special attention that he might need. Every word outpoured love, an almost desperate plea for his sake. Their son needed this. It meant moving on in life. Without an education he would fall into the cracks and be lost in the weave of this world that we call society.
I looked at his picture again. What thoughts and ambitions are held behind those eyes, I wondered?
My research needed to be extremely thorough, if I was going to take this on. A huge responsibility, nonetheless. Was I ready for something like this?
“What are you up to Saima?” Saman had walked into the room without my noticing; I was so engrossed in my work.
“Oh, hi Saman,” I turned around to face her. “It’s this student’s file. How are you Saman?”
I rarely shared confidential information about students with other teachers but Saman was different. I spoke to her about this student and also showed her the file.
“Will you be able to help him? This seems like a very delicate case. What will you do?” Saman sounded negative and pessimistic, but in reality she was actually keeping it real. She knew how stressed I would become if I took this on. But I couldn’t decide before meeting him. I owed it to the parents and my boss to give this kid a chance.
“I’ll meet him soon enough and decide. I’m almost done here. Let’s go!” With that we both packed up and left.
Asad was on my mind. I couldn’t wait to get home and Google all this information.
The better part of the evening was spent on my laptop.
One video particularly caught my eye. It almost brought me to tears and gave me the chills. I couldn’t believe how unaware I was of this medical discovery and invention. And the challenges that these children faced blew my mind. As a teacher, not only was I embarrassed but I was also ashamed. What use are all those workshops and seminars that they make us attend when we have such little knowledge on special needs or special demands. We’re taught the same things over and over and rarely learn anything new.
I made it a point to bring this up in the next staff meeting with the management. I knew they would steal my idea and commercialise it but I didn’t care, at least there would be awareness and eventually, we would be able to help students in need. I wanted to share all of this with Fawad as soon as possible.
I completely lost track of time and asked Fawad to bring home some take-away.
“Are you feeling sick Saima?” His voice was full of concern.
“No no, I’m fine. Just lost track of time and realised that I have no time to cook.”
It felt good to know that even in his busiest moments at work he was thinking of us, the baby and me.
During dinner I poured my heart out to him. He was supportive and appreciative of my involvement but he was skeptical of whether I would give Asad the kind of attention he needed, knowing that I wasn’t trained to teach students of special needs. I showed him the video that I had found on YouTube.
When we sat down for our downtime we hashed out all the possibilities and probabilities.
“It’s not that I don’t want you to help him. It’s just that if you take it on you should be able to do your best. It’s not just about the positive. What if you end up doing more harm than good, in your naivety?” he said.
“I might not do more harm than good I’m sure and if I teach him with heart, at least I’ll make a difference. I mean, it’s not a clinical case for me. Let me meet him and make up my mind.”
“Of course dear, as you wish.” And he smiled his encouraging and inspiring smile. That was enough for me. That’s all I needed.
The next day I walked into the boss’s office with a surge of energy. I had some extremely bright ideas about Asad’s profile that I couldn’t wait to share with her.
“Yes Saima! You seem very positively charged today. What’s on your mind dear?”
“Well, I completed my research on Asad’s profile and I want to meet him before deciding if we should take him on. But there’s more. When I began to find out more and more about the cochlear implant, I felt the need to be properly educated in this area. I think we should call in a professional and have a training session here to spread awareness for children with special needs. Like we had on mental health and learning disabilities a few months ago.”
I could almost feel myself glowing with pride and joy.
“But Saima, we do not run a school with special needs students.”
She almost sounded irritated. Well you gave me Asad didn’t you, I could feel my brain retorting back. But I kept my mouth shut.
“Saima, I know you become emotionally involved and also care deeply for your students but at this point, all I want is help for this one kid. I don’t want to scare away my teachers or worsen the parent community by introducing the subject of special needs. We do not run a special needs school. We run a school with normal kids.”
I felt betrayed and shocked. Define normal, I wanted to scream.
Gosh. Here I was thinking that she would be happy with my suggestion but all I got in return was a big fat no and an argument that did not sound logical at all, but I shut my mouth, smiled, said thank and left her office feeling immensely demotivated and hurt. She ended the meeting by telling me that she would arrange a meeting with Asad and his parents by either today or tomorrow, and that I could then give her an answer on whether we would take him in or not.
I came in with so many hopes. I left with an arched look and disdain that I didn’t know how to filter through my system. All I could think of at that time was food and Fawad. Both could give me the comfort that I needed.
Saman met me out the boss’s office.
“Hey! How are you?” she asked cheerfully but as soon as she saw my long face she quickly added; “What’s wrong, babe?”
“Saman I will be opening up my school sooner than you think.” I quickly sauntered off after saying that while Saman stood there in dumb shock.
I went about the day as usual. Fawad texted to ask how I was a couple of times but I was too busy to reply.
Then suddenly out of nowhere at home time he texted that I should wait for him. He was coming to pick me up.
I wondered why he wanted to do that, knowing that the afternoons were particularly busy at his end.
Nonetheless I packed my stuff and waited for him.
Saman peaked in through a slit in the door and walked in like a naughty two year old.
“You’ve been awfully quiet today. All ok at your end?” she asked trying to sound both concerned and cheerful at the same time.
“It’s nothing really Saman. You know how I get. I’m always so emotional. I’ll tell you tonight maybe. I’ll send you a voice note. Right now I’m waiting for Fawad. He’s picking me from work.”
“Oh you have a doctor’s appointment?”
“No no. I don’t even know why he’s coming. He was sending texts the whole day asking after me and I was so busy and I didn’t reply. I think maybe he thinks I need a break or I’m not well and he’s being my knight in shining armour.”
“My god Saima, you are too lucky. Touch wood. No one I know is so caring or so kind. Like seriously!”
Saman had a way of sounding like a teenager at most times, now being one of those times.
I simply laughed it off somewhat coyly. I was happy and grateful. I didn’t want to jinx what I had with Fawad and I was weary of being too expressive about my feelings in fear of doing that, even with Saman. After all we are all human.
At that thought my cell buzzed. It was Fawad.
“Hello!” I said into the phone.
“I’m here Saima. Come on out.”
That voice. I quickly softened and visibly relaxed.
“It’s time to go.” I picked up my stuff and kissed Saman a quick goodbye and breezed out of my room. Well, let’s be honest, I somewhat stumbled and bounced out, given my huge tummy and hugely blown-out body proportions, but I tried being as graceful as I could while rushing to meet the father of my child, the love of my life.
I didn’t even know why I was being so melodramatic and strangely romantic but I wanted to share with Fawad everything that had happened during the day and I wanted to see him right away!
These double standards in education, in politics, in parenting, in everything have to end here.