As students across Maharashtra rejoice in the successful outcome of SSC 2022 results, a school in the small town of Alandi Devachi in Pune is celebrating something more special.
The National Federation of the Blind, Maharashtra, is an organisation ‘of the blind’, ‘for the blind’, and successfully run ‘by the blind’. The NFBM Jagriti School for Blind Girls in Alandi Devachi, run by the non-profit organisation has recorded a 100 per cent score for the 24th year in a row – all 14 students who appeared for the board exams have passed with flying colours.
Mangal Wankhede (Khunte), Principal, Jagriti School, while cherishing the record, said that the organisation stayed true to its goal of helping blind students despite the Covid pandemic. “During the pandemic, we also had to shift to the online mode of learning but we made sure that our students were not left behind, providing them with gadgets and devices that could help them attend the lectures with ease. We gave out phones, tablets, etc, for students to access content. Maths was taught through Braille by the use of special devices,” she said, adding that students were also able to avail audio and video content from their syllabus, and did their best, despite the challenges they face day in and day out.
While some students who topped the class were happy with their results, others felt they could have done better but they agreed on the level of preparation they put into clearing the board exams.
“I expected more than 80 per cent but 79 per cent also seems good,” giggled Akshada Muthe, who topped her class and appreciated Jagriti school’s efforts in teaching students how to use digital devices while also helping them out with other resources such as guides, audiobooks, etc. “I want to take up Arts and give the UPSC exam to be a civil servant in the future,” declared Akshada, an Aurangabad resident, who was extremely happy to return to school in 2022 and appear for the board exam.
Sadhana Pawar, a student from Pune, who talked to The Free Press Journal with the help of her sister, stood second in Jagriti school, with 78 per cent. “I want to take up Arts and be a teacher. I am blind but I want to teach kids like me in the future so that they can relate to me and take inspiration,” she said.
Shravani Nandwadekar, despite ranking third in her class, felt she could have scored more than 85 per cent. “We were still in the peak of the pandemic for the entire duration of ninth grade and thus, there was uncertainty about how to use our devices but our school left no stone unturned in making sure we are able to do so properly,” said Shravani, who also appreciated the support of her parents and is still deciding on her career choices. “I wish that I continue to study well,” she said, enthusiastically.
Sakshi Rajguru, a student who finds Science her favourite subject, believes that despite physical or mental challenges, studying hard is important to show that you can do what everybody else can. “I want to get into teaching in the future as it’s not just about me, it’s about thousands of students who might feel they are not good enough,” she said. Sakshi scored 77 per cent, bagging the fourth rank in school.
Some, like fifth-ranker Chaitrali Gaikwad, had to grapple with chickenpox five days before and during the exam. “Some days I did not feel like attempting the paper as the pain and weakness was gruesome and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to continue with exams,” she said. Further, she had never liked online classes, feeling peaceful only when she had interacted with teachers and other students. Chaitrali, who has completed her A1 certification in the German language, wants to teach Economics and added that students should not feel disheartened about what others think, as what matters is their behaviour in the world at the end of the day.
Aarti Takawane, a psychologist who works at the skill development centre at the National Federation of the Blind in Maharashtra, also praised the determination of the students who, according to her, have multiple skills and talents. “At present, 117 blind girls are housed in this school. 99 per cent of our students come from rural areas. The NFBM Jagriti School for Blind Girls provides free education, lodging, and boarding facilities to its deserving students. Along with academic coaching, children are also trained in information technology, vocational training, craft, sports training, cultural skills and communication. Psychological counselling, home science, orientation and mobility, and music classes are the specialties of this special school,” said Aarti, who added that mobile settings within smartphones which translate texts into audios were used to help students get through their syllabus. “From students working as bankers, accessibility testers, teachers, recruiters to radio jockeys, treatment and yoga assistants, our children have entered a wide variety of fields,” she proudly added.