HSC exams have begun and most students are rushing about studying for their remaining papers, in a frenzy. But not Reshma Gotpagar. The visually challenged girl is sure she will do well in her tests. The Ruia college student confidently said, “I know I will do well, as I am prepared.”

Reshma Gotpagar studies for the HSC exam with her mother and her brother by her side
Reshma Gotpagar studies for the HSC exam with her mother and her brother by her side

One of about 3,000 disabled students appearing for the exam in Mumbai, she was diagnosed with a retinal dysfunction when she was a few months old. “We took her to every possible doctor but all said there was nothing that could be done,” said Rekha Gotpagar, her mother.

Her parents took this setback as a challenge and decided to bring her up as normally as they could and concentrate on educating her. “My parents have bought me an iPod, on which I listen to the subject material. At times I study with the help of braille as well,” said Reshma.

“Since childhood I have been helping her with her studies. We have even bought the guides of every subject, so that I can sit and read them out to her,” said Rekha. Even Reshma’s 12-year-old brother, Amrut, reads for her. Reshma is said to be putting in almost seven hours of study every day.

She said, “I wish to thank my principal, all my teachers and friends who keep supporting and encouraging me.” But educating her has not always been smooth sailing for her family. Initially the Gotpagars had admitted Reshma in a normal school.

However, after four years of rigorously trying to adjust, the family had to admit her to the Kamla Mehta Dadar School for the Blind. “We just wanted her to bring her up like a normal kid. But our doctor explained to us that the school would contribute to her overall upbringing, and so, we decided to shift her there,” said Rekha.

Sangeeta Kamat, coordinator of the Self-Vision Centre for visually impaired students at Ramnarain Ruia College, said, “Appearing for board exams is always stressful for children, and for the visually impaired it’s even more of a task. They are not only burdened with studies, but also with the procedures of making sure they have a writer.

When you write your own paper, there is a personal touch you give. But these people have to trust and completely rely on the work of that writer, which at times becomes stressful. However, we make sure we train them to accept and face these challenges with a smile”.