August 1, 2023
KATHMANDU – Twenty-year-old Krishna Sahani is from Madhura village in Jahada Rural Municipality of Morang district and currently lives in Biratnagar. Krishna, who is a wheelchair user, had to move his base to the city in search of a school that was disabled-friendly since none of the schools in Jahada could cater to his special needs.
His search led him to Adarsha Secondary School in ward 7 of Biratnagar Municipality.
Today Krishna is a grade 10 student at the school which has a disabled-friendly infrastructure.
Krishna started having issues with lower limb movement when he turned four, his father Shankar Sahani told the Post. But despite his disability, Krishna has always been a keen student, he says.
“He went to the local village school until grade 8. We ensured his school years were comfortable, but when he said he wanted to continue his studies after grade 8, we were at a loss because the secondary schools in the village do not have the infrastructure or the support system he needs,” said Shankar. “So we decided to send him to Adarsha Secondary School despite our worries about his well-being in the city.”
Krishna enrolled in the school a year and a half ago.
“He lives with his two sisters in a rented room in Biratnagar. Since Krishna cannot move on his own, his two sisters help him in his daily routine,” said Shankar.
Krishna is the oldest among the four siblings. His youngest sister, Binita Sahani, also attends Adarsha Secondary School in grade 8 and helps Krishna on his commute to and from school every day.
“It takes us around 40 minutes to reach the school from our rented room. My sisters help me get ready for school. They take me to school and bring me back home,” said Krishna. “I had to move to the city because there is not a single disabled-friendly school in my rural municipality. I want to continue my studies and become a government officer.”
Adarsha Secondary School is the only disabled-friendly community school in the metropolitan area. Children with disabilities from the surrounding areas come to the school seeking admission, says Santosh Pokharel, principal of the school. According to the school, there are 119 students with disabilities enrolled at the school this academic year. There are disabled students from Pathari Shanishchare Municipality in Morang, Kanchanrup Municipality in Saptari, Itahari in Sunsari and Dharan in Morang.
The school aims to provide a favourable environment to students with disabilities to encourage them to complete their education. It offers scholarships to students with disabilities from rural areas to help ease the financial burden of pursuing education in the city.
According to Pokharel, this academic year the school provided scholarships worth Rs1.94 million to the disabled students of the school. The school contributes additional funds for the scholarships from its endowment fund.
The school not only supports students with physical disabilities, but also those with neurological disabilities such as cerebral palsy.
Rajeshwar Rajbanshi, an 8-year-old boy from Sunbarshi Municipality of Morang who suffers from cerebral palsy is a grade 3 student at Adarsha Secondary School. Rajeshwar is among the several students with disabilities who have come from outside Biratnagar to study at the school.
According to Principal Pokhrel, out of the 119 disabled students, 40 have rented rooms in Biratnagar in order to attend the school while others live with their relatives.
“Every year, the school provides scholarships worth Rs40,000 each to students with disabilities who live in rented rooms and are unable to come to the school without the help of others. For disabled students from within the Biratnagar metropolis, we give a cash assistance of Rs5,000 per year,” he said.
The school was declared disabled-friendly four years ago after the construction of necessary infrastructure such as disabled-friendly classes and toilets, among other things. “The school also conducts awareness programmes in the school so the other children do not discriminate against the children with different abilities,” said Pokhrel. “We want the children to learn to be inclusive. The teachers have also been trained to provide special care to children with disabilities when needed.”
The school is a boon to the disabled community, says Krishna. “From the quality of education provided to us to the disabled-friendly infrastructure and qualified teachers, the school has it all,” he said. “We are very happy to study here. We have requested the school to set up a hostel for those of us from outside Biratnagar so that it will be easier for us to focus on our studies.”
Adarsha Secondary School, established some 90 years ago, does not have enough land to build a hostel on its premises, says Principal Pokhrel. “Also, limited funds have impeded the construction of a hostel for disabled students,” he said. “If we were to receive some help from the government, we would be able to construct a hostel for disabled children and free them from the hassle of renting a room in the city and commuting to school every day.”
But the provincial government says it has no plans or programmes this fiscal year to spend on school infrastructures for disabled children. Basudev Dahal, secretary of the Ministry of Social Development of Koshi Province, says since education up to the secondary level comes under the ambit of the local government, they should extend support to schools such as the Adarsha Secondary School. “The local government should first ensure that disabled children in the respective local units get access to good education. If the village schools were disabled-friendly, the students wouldn’t have to leave the villages and come to Biratnagar to attend school,” he said. “Now the onus lies on the Biratnagar Metropolis to help Adarsha Secondary School build a hostel for the disabled students.”
The Biratnagar Metropolis has not introduced specific plans and policies targetted at schools that support disabled students, but has built roads in school areas for easy access for students. “The metropolis doesn’t have enough budget to help Adarsha Secondary School build a hostel,” said Shilpa Karki Niraula, deputy mayor of Biratnagar Metropolitan City. “The school’s initiative is a good one, but we have budget limitations so haven’t been able to extend much support.”