Posted by Rahul Shrivastava, NCR
One day, when she came back from her institute, I saw bruises on both her hands. When questioned, she told me that during one of her sessions, her student suddenly became violent and injured her. Another day, I saw her teaching a young kid how to relieve himself cleanly. Slowly, I have come to realise how different and challenging it is to engage with and teach children with autism.
I know that many of her classmates in the special training course didn’t find the career lucrative enough. They stopped mid-way and went for more remunerative streams like banking, finance, sales or insurance. But she has persisted for years to overcome challenges that often seem to be unbeatable. May be one day her student will learn how not to be physical while making a point, or learn how to use the bathroom independently – like his other friends.
Intense engagement is required to teach people with special needs. Those who are dealing with them understand how they see the world around them. Parents and family members are extremely important to them, but equally critical is their counsellor or teacher, at times their only friend. I feel that this is true for all of us. As 15th century Indian saint Kabir put it, “I face both God and my Teacher. Whom should I bow to first? I first bow to you my Teacher, as you showed me the path to God”.
Pandemic suddenly changed everything, The city is sealed and borders are closed. The first to close were schools, so her institute was also shut. But the need to educate and train the special students remained. Action for Autism, her institute, immediately started looking for alternate methodologies and technologies to reach parents and students who were now locked down at home.
Online meetings were organised, apps were downloaded. In almost no time, teachers were ready to provide remote counselling. This has happened world over. Schools and institutes have jumped to online platforms to provide education. But its one thing to see online schooling in Madrid, New York or Singapore in a BBC documentary, and another to see that happening within the closed walls of your home.
I witness her day-in and day-out, take care of her household chores, bake her favourite cake and struggle with dust on the furniture. While side by side, she searches the web, collects information and makes presentations after presentations. Some to discuss methodologies with her team, others for her student sessions the next day.
I remember the other day, she dragged me around the colony in search of fully bloomed jasmine flowers. This was to make a smell bowl for her online student session. She wanted to teach the special children the concept of beauty in fragrance. Finally, in one of the lanes we got the jasmine flowers. Jasmine never smelled so heavenly to me, like it did that evening.
Another May morning, the lockdown is still on. Education continues through tablets, laptops and smart phones. Like all teachers world over, she is up and awake and has prepared breakfast for her family. She sits at her table. Her mobile screen pops up several faces of parents and their kids – like any other day. She is prompting this little girl, “Say hi to Viniti Ma’am”. I am in the other room listening to this and thinking that when the little girl says hi, she is not only saying hi to Viniti, but to education, training, learning and to a better future for herself and the world.
Salute to teachers across the world, who are relentlessly displaying that their spirit to teach and train is stronger than any virus.
Cover image : Cityflowers.co.in
Story images : Author
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