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The Lady with the Lamp of Education for the Visually Impaired – Written by Sanjoy Kumer Barman

A bell that rings at the end of a school day can change a life. It can even change someone’s dream. Speaking of dreams, there perhaps cannot be a better example other than the visionary Nomita Halder. Born in 1969 to father Narayan Chandra Halder and mother Shumoti Halder, Nomita was second eldest of her seven siblings. Her father was a teacher at the Khulna Coronation Girls High School and Nomita eventually started her academic career with the same school at the age of five.

Teenage, an age where ideas are woven and life takes its turn towards glory, turned out to be a horrible nightmare for Nomita.  In 1983, while Nomita was preparing studiously for her Secondary School Certificate tests, a deadly incident transformed her life. One evening on her way back to home from school, not only her dreams but her eyes were snatched ruthlessly from her.   A man had stopped her way and before she could even think, a burning sensation took over her face and hands. The last thing she remembers seeing is how her hands were melting right in front of her eyes as she tried to wipe off that unidentifiable liquid from her forehead and eyes. Fifteen-year old Nomita became an acid victim while she was studying at ninth grade.

 

Nomita was rushed to the Khulna Sadar Hospital right after this horrendous incident. She was under treatment there for the next couple of months. However, as there was no specialized burn unit at the hospital during those days, it was gradually getting difficult for the doctors to treat her with proper required medical care. The scarcity of proper medicine made her treatment expensive and her father was struggling with her medical expenses as he also had to take care of a family of nine.

Just when all rays of hope were on the verge of being dimmed, Joseph Marjello, an Italian Missionary made way to see Nomita at the hospital, one day. He extended his hand of help and Nomita was shifted to the Dhaka Pongu Hospital in the following weeks. Brother Marjello, whom Nomita addresses as her second ‘Baba’ (father) left no stone unturned to get her life back on track. With better treatment and constant care, Nomita’s skin began to heal, so did her heart. However, her eyes could not be retrieved as they were badly hurt by the acid contact.

As soon as Nomita recovered, things took a spin and she had to embrace two new dilemmas– new life and new struggle. With all newness awaiting her in her path, Nomita’s self-confidence and esteem was completely broken. She had to start schooling again but how could she? How could she read her books and write in her copy? This again became a concern for her parents and Brother Marjello.

Days became weeks and weeks became months, yet no answers to these questions were found until one day Brother Joseph decided to take Nomita to Baptist Mission Integrated School (BMIS), a specialized school for the blind, where she was to learn letters on Braille again under the affectionate guidance of Manju Samaddar, the then principal of the institution. Mrs. Samaddar or Nomita’s ‘Boro Didi’ (sister) then started to work not only on Nomita’s further education but also started to equip her with the skills she would need to become independent. She was subjected to mobility training and also took vocational training on weaving and handcrafting at her school besides academics.

Nomita appeared for her SSC in 1987 and HSC in 1990 under Mirpur Girls Ideal Laboratory Institute.  Wither her academic success now she wanted to pursue higher academics. Thus, in 1993, she finally graduated from Lalmatia Mohila College.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Nomita decided that she wanted to become a teacher. However, there was more to her dream. She wanted to educate visually impaired students and lead them towards a prosperous future. Thus, with her dream of empowering the differently-abled, she started her teaching career with BMIS in 1996 with Mrs. Samaddar’s support and guidance.

After working for about two years, in 1998, Nomita was sent to Spain with five other acid attack victims for skin grafting. Her fingers were grafted and now she could her fingers freely. Sadly her sight could not be retrieved. However, this had no effect on her goal ahead.

She was sent to Ahmedabad, India in 2004, where she participated in the Intensive Teacher Training Programme for Visually Impaired under International Council for Education of the Visually Handicapped (ICEVT).

Nomita wanted to update herself with tech-skills and thus started to train under Vocational Training Centre for the Blind (VTCB). Alongside regular classes, Nomita also takes an IT class for her students where she teaches typing, software updating and telephone operation to her students.

Since the beginning of her career, Nomita found that Braille books were scarce and thus, she started typing Braille books voluntarily for her students. To make this initiate better and durable, Nomita was sent to Japan along with Mrs. Samaddar to learn the use of Perkins, a special Braille typewriter. After her training till date, Nomita has voluntarily typed over 200 Braille books for her students voluntarily.

Nomita has been teaching the visually impaired almost the past three decades now. She also takes care of their extracurricular activities and looks forward to keeping working to improve the society until her hands are strong. In her spare time, Nomita likes to watch Television and weave sweaters. With all her sorrows aside, Nomita still smiles every day as she wishes every morning to be more beautiful than the previous one.

She lives with her students and plays the role of a nurse, an adviser, a friend, and most importantly, a mother. Through this story, she intends to reach out to all such tormented souls and welcomes them with open arms. She says, “Who says one needs eyes to dream?”

Image courtesy – Supplied by participant. Edited by Starmums.

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