Many disabled children in Pakistan feel as though they are a curse from God. For fear of marginalization, they remain hidden away at home and have few educational opportunities. An aid organization wants to change that.
Naeem Ghani had the chance to see what often remains hidden in Pakistan through his job as director of medical clinics located in a number of local cities and villages. When patients came to see him for treatment, some brought along their disabled children – children otherwise concealed from neighbors’ eyes out of shame. Religious conservatives in Pakistan view disabilities as God’s punishment for wrongdoing.
Naeem Ghani and his team offered families with disabled children free treatment and medication. But medical support is far from sufficient for improving disabled people’s chances for a better life – for more participation and inclusion – in Pakistani society.
“Education is a fundamental necessity for everyone,” Ghani said, “Because education and socialization have major influence on every phase of human life.”
The recognition that the disabled have major unmet educational needs prompted Naeem Ghani to found the Sultana Foundation in Islamabad in 1993.
Dr. Naeem Ghani and his team.
The organization began as a small elementary school for boys. In two narrow rooms, pupils whose families could not otherwise afford to send them to school were able to get an education. Volunteers taught them the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Three years later, the Sultana Foundation established a second school for children with disabilities. The foundation is planning a high school that would serve the same group, but the project first needs government approval.
Today the school gives instruction to 24 boys and 32 girls, and the day to day lessons go well beyond the classroom. The Sultana Foundation Special Children School uses strategies to integrate its students better into society. One example: alongside a standard curriculum, pupils also get job training. The goal is to let them live with more self-determination and less reliance on their families, in part by helping them see how to organize assistance for themselves as needed.
Free medical care is available to the school’s pupils.
Read more in DW de