Pakistan’s education system may be lacking in many ways but I focus on its attempt to include those who are mentally disabled. During my school years I never saw any disabled person in my school from nursery to A’levels. It is impossible that there were not any disabled children in Lahore during that time. This represents the level of inclusion private schools in Lahore offer. It is important to note that disability does not only refer to those who are physically handicapped but also those who are mentally challenged.
My mother’s friend has a daughter, Alia (this is a pseudo name so its easier to refer to) diagnosed with autism. Initially I was surprised to know that she goes to a regular school. My surprise stems from the fact that I have seen mentally challenged people before but have never seen them interact or perhaps being allowed to interact with the society on a daily basis. My father’s friend had a mentally challenged son, he went to school initially when he was younger but as his condition regressed he was not only withdrawn from school but also completely shut in his bedroom. Returning to Alia’s case, she studies in a private school in Lahore. Her mother was satisfied with the idea that her child was able to go to school and learn concepts that people at her age usually do. Their classrooms were inclusive but because the school, being aware of their condition, did not put much effort into their learning. It is also important to draw this comparison where one child was completely shut off from society whereas the other one was allowed to prosper at her own pace. It requires great initiative from the parents to fight prejudices of the society and own that child like their other children.
I wanted to explore further on how the school helps these children so I went on to their website. They did not advertise on their front page that they admit children with autism or any other disability. I could also understand this because Pakistani parents would be hesitant sending their children to a school which has children with different abilities. In one of the tabs they had mentioned reviews from parents about the school. There were a total of five slides and only the last two showed pictures of children who were disabled. Even the comments did not outrightly mention that. This shows how we as a society are intolerant and scared of children who simply look different or act different. These were only two of the numerous stories that exist in Pakistan.
A thought that I would like to leave you with is that if it is so difficult to provide education to disabled children more peaceful region how challenging it must be to do so in regions facing active conflict ?