Education September 12, 2020
#TeachersSpecial – Visually impaired college lecturer Sangeeta Agrawal aims to give equal opportunities to children in India
Dr Sangeeta Agrawal was born blind but was never made to feel that her disability made her less capable than those around her. It is this feeling of equality that she tries to impart in her role as a Sanskrit lecturer and founder of NGO Shubham.
Confidence and self-reliance is something Dr Sangeeta Agrawal had to learn early. She was just eight years old when she joined a blind girls’ boarding school in New Delhi. Her parents had no choice as none of the mainstream schools in their home town, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, were willing to enrol a visually impaired girl.
“My father traveled to many cities close to our home town to find a school for me after all the general schools in my town turned me away due to my disability”, says Dr Sangeeta, who heads the Sanskrit department at Langat Singh College in Muzaffarpur. “Finally, he got me admitted to a boarding school for blind girls in Delhi called Rashtriya Virjanand Andh Kanya Vidyalaya”.
Living away from her brothers and parents was not easy, but the experience was valuable. “I learned to become self-reliant like learning to wash my clothes, performing daily life tasks, walking independently, learning, reading, and writing, etc. I was growing into an independent person, something I quite enjoyed”. But it also shaped a future goal. “Unlike my brothers who could stay at home, I had to move out just because of my disability and that did bother me. Going ahead I wanted to go back home and empower children with disabilities so they did not have to make the kind of choices I did”.
Empowering disabled kids in small town India
With that goal in mind, Dr Sangeeta dedicated herself to studies. She had an outstanding academic record right through school and college, topping the Delhi University in her B.A and M.A. “In 1992, I completed my Ph.D. in Sanskrit and had two options”, she recalls. “I could stay on and continue with my teaching career or go back home”.
Homeward bound it was and back in Muzaffarpur, she started her teaching career and launched the NGO Shubham.
Shubham’s motto is Atmanirbharattvam Shubham which means empowering everyone to become independent out of goodwill, not pity. Apart from free education, skill development, boarding facility, welfare workshops for physically disabled children, we started the first Braille press that prints books for blind students across Bihar. – Dr Sangeeta Agrawal, Visually impaired college lecturer
National Award winner
Today Dr Sangeeta oversees the Sanskrit department as well as the operations of Shubham. Her efforts won her the National Award in the role model category on World Disability Day in 2019.
An honour she richly deserves say her students. “I was initially quite shocked to find out that she is visually impaired”, says Ankur Choudhary, a first year student of Sanskrit at L.S College. “She is such a great teacher and I never imagined that a visually impaired person could teach”. Another student Ranjan Kumar says his appreciation for Sanskrit has grown after joining Dr Sangeeta’s class. “She brings to life the beauty of Sanskrit. I look forward to her classes”.
Gauri Shankar Thakur, who teaches deaf and hard of hearing children in Muzaffarpur, calls her an avataar of the Goddess of Learning Saraswati. “She knows a lot about various subjects and speaks about them with authority. She is very well-informed and I have had the opportunity to witness her vision and breadth of learning from close”.
Going ahead, Dr Sangeeta wants build an education system where children in India have equal opportunities. “I believe that every person, whatever be the nature of their disability, can lead an independent and useful life with appropriate education and training”, says Dr Sangeeta.
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