Mumbai isn't blind to these students' needs

Even as it scurries past every misfortune, busily turning the chapter each day, Mumbai surprises us, every once in a while, with its tender moments — and its large heart.

Following a report in mid-day on May 9 on blind students of Mumbai University being left to look for writers for their examinations at the eleventh hour (‘This exam season, a blind chase for writers, thanks to MU’s apathy’), many citizens have come forward to volunteer for the task.

Turns out, all that was needed was getting the word out. Organisations helping blind students say many volunteers didn’t have an inkling of such students’ plight. The search for writers is largely a lonely, individual task; the students have to often make arrangements themselves in the absence of a set mechanism. The organisations have demanded that a pool of writers be created to avoid future hassles.

Since mid-day’s report, 20-25 volunteers have come forward for the exams, which are underway.

Willing, but clueless
Ummehaani Bagasrawala, a blind social worker who has been helping several organisations scout for writers, says the mid-day report helped reverse the tide of apathy. “People are willing to help, but they often don’t know if their help is needed. We usually rely on word of mouth, especially through social media platforms and known associates, in our search for writers.”

She suggests the establishment of a database, wherein volunteers can register themselves and suitable candidates can be contacted as and when the need arises. “The task of finding writers will not be maddening then,” she adds.

Demand for mechanism
Amol Mane from Team Vision, an organisation helping blind candidates find writers for the examination, says finding a suitable writer is a time-consuming and arduous task, since several parameters and conditions must be met.

“There are times when we have a person willing to volunteer as a writer, but s/he is deemed an unsuitable candidate for not falling under the prescribed category. For many examinations, a writer has to be the student’s junior or from a lower educational background in a different stream. If there is a central mechanism in place, with the data of volunteers, the task can be less tiring.” This, as Mane points out, requires a massive awareness campaign.

Volunteers’ experience

Heena Ansari, finance sector
It was a satisfying experience. There is scope for the process to be made easier at the exam centre since there is already confusion among writers and we are nervous. I was tensed because I was writing the exam for someone else. I could not afford to make any mistake. I am sure other writers feel the same. It’s disheartening that these students’ colleges or the university is not willing to help them even though they have a pool of junior students.

Mitali Bannerjee, recruitment professional
Blind students not only face a dearth of writers but also adequate study material. They can’t learn at the last minute from notes that are not actually prepared for them. Although there is new rule that states that a writer can be of any age or stream, there isn’t much awareness about it. When I went to write the Hindi exam, I was questioned because I have a post-graduate qualification. But my post-graduation was not in Hindi.

Malashree Kattimani a TYBA student
I live in Chembur and the exam center was in Virar, but not even for a minute did I hesitate to take up the responsibility. Being able to help someone is such a fulfilling experience. I’m sure others would offer to help as well. When I told my friends about this, a few expressed their desire to help out.

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