|Aruna with her family at their home in the Poo Market area|
When the class twelve results were announced last week, print and visual media were full of interviews of state toppers and district toppers who proclaimed their aspirations to the world as beaming parents and teachers cheered them for a bright future ahead. But, not all of them did.
City-based Aruna S (18) from the Poo Market area, who had scored 97.2 percent in the class twelve exams with centum in Business Mathematics and Accountancy despite being 100% hearing impaired, is one of those achievers for whom silence is the only way to celebrate.
The young lady, who is among the six deaf and dumb students to pass her class twelve exams from a school here, had been a state topper in the special children category when she appeared for class ten exams two years ago. Despite her impressive record, no college in Coimbatore was willing to give her a seat to pursue a degree in commerce.
Aruna who lives with her parents C. Singaravelan (52), a sub post master at Sukravarpet, and mother Kausalya and elder sibling Aiswarya, has been an achiever all along despite her disability. Her father claims that she studied for several hours every day during the past year to achieve this high score. “She is a very hard working girl and with support, she managed to bring pride to her school and family,” Singaravelan says.
When Singaravelan approached colleges in and around the city for a seat for his daughter, most of them declined as they had a policy to not take in hearing impaired students. “While other parents of students who score high marks have great aspirations for their children, I was unsure of her future. Despite being achievers, children such as Aruna face discrimination at every level,” Singaravelan says.
After a long search, he finally managed to get a seat for his daughter at the Sankara College for Science and Commerce for a B. Com degree course. “It is the only college in the city that admits hearing impaired students. Due to the apathy of the colleges in the city, many students are forced to forego their career dreams. While there are certain other colleges in other districts that admit special children, parents are reluctant to send them far due to their disability,” says a special educator in the city.
Principal of the Sankara College Dr. S. Seethalakshmi points out that their management has a policy of admitting hearing impaired children and has recruited special educators for the purpose. “Last year we admitted five students and this year, the number has increased to 12 so far. We hope other managements too open their doors to special children,” she says.
For Aruna and Singaravelan, the battle seems to have been won for now. The young girl, who is a great fan of actor Vijay and cricketer Dhoni, does not want to think too much about her future. In broken words that she learnt through lip reading, Aruna claims that she is unsure of what to do as she does not know much expect what her teachers and family taught her.
Getting a job is even more difficult for the silenced
While getting admission into colleges is an arduous task by itself, the prospects of landing a decent job in Kovai seems to be an even more arduous task for hearing impaired people.
Murali Kuppusamy, director of Deaf Leaders, an NGO for Hearing Impaired in Kovai points out that most large companies in the city shut their door for hearing impaired. “We have to contend ourselves with jobs in small concerns where too we are paid lesser than normal employees although we do the same amount of work,” says Murali in an email interview. “Opportunities are better in Chennai and other cities but not here,” he says.
Special educator N. R. Bhuvaneswari, who has specialized in teaching hearing impaired children and has been coaching them for the last 13 years points out that her students have proved that they can take up any course they want. “A few of my hearing impaired students are now pursuing their final year B. Tech in Information Technology at the Kalsilingam University. While we were initially worried if they would be able to study IT related subjects, I am surprised to find all of them are on the verge of completing their degrees successfully,” Bhuavenswari says.
Unlike regular children, children with a hearing disability need to be trained by the same teacher from class six onwards as a continuous stream of education. “Since they are unable to conceptualize topics as they live in a silent world, there has to be a gradual continuity in their education for them to successfully complete their courses,” the special educator says.
She points out that the most hearing impaired students excel in subjects where numbers are involved such as commerce. “Since it does not require much of explanation, they grasp it fast and can make good accountants and in other professions related to numbers. But, still jobs are hard to come by and salaries are much lesser than normal candidates due to a prejudice,” Ms. Bhuvanswari says.