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Mumbai: How fully visually impaired swimmer bagged 3 gold medals and scored 94 per cent in SSC

Updated on: 01 June,2024 05:03 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh |

Kalyan resident Siddhi Dalvi aims to represent India in para swimming while pursuing commerce

Mumbai: How fully visually impaired swimmer bagged 3 gold medals and scored 94 per cent in SSC

The athlete shares a light moment with her mother Pratiksha and father Dhirendra Dalvi. Pics/Satej Shinde

Siddhi Dhirendra Dalvi, a Kalyan resident who has been 100 per cent visually impaired since birth, not only secured three gold medals at the 23rd National Para Swimming Championships 2024 in March but also emerged second in her school in the SSC board exam, scoring 94.20 per cent. Siddhi’s dedication and perseverance allowed her to continue training for the championship while preparing for the exam.

Now, she aims to represent India on the global stage in para-swimming while advancing her education. Siddhi plans to pursue a commerce degree and continue enhancing her computer skills simultaneously.

National-level para swimming champ and topper Siddhi Dalvi at her Gholap Nagar residence in Kalyan on May 31.National-level para swimming champ and topper Siddhi Dalvi at her Gholap Nagar residence in Kalyan on May 31.

“Siddhi is the only visually impaired Marathi-medium student who took her exam on a laptop,” said Pratiksha Dalvi, Siddhi’s mother. “We are thankful to J L Patil, the principal of Saraswati Mandir School in Kalyan, who was very helpful and supportive. He was instrumental in securing permission for Siddhi to use a laptop during her board exams, breaking down barriers and fostering an inclusive educational environment. There’s a GR that allows visually challenged students to appear for exams with the help of a computer/laptop and a reader,” she added.

Initial challenges

Pratiksha, said, “Siddhi has been visually impaired since birth, just like her elder brother, Prathamesh, 25, who works for an NGO. We had to learn and teach her where everything was kept at home as well as the activities of daily living when she was growing up. We got associated with the National Association for the Blind (NAB), and a teacher would come home to teach us so we could help our children. To understand their difficulties, I would close my eyes and try to navigate our home, then teach them accordingly. In the next phase, getting school admission was another big hurdle. An official from Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) helped us get admission for Prathamesh at Saraswati Mandir School, and later, Siddhi also got admitted there. When Siddhi reached higher grades, we started realising other challenges. Braille, for example, has only alphabets, and no diagrams or drawings. It was all trial and error for us,” Pratiksha said.

Siddhi Dalvi’s enviable collection of the para swimming medalsSiddhi Dalvi’s enviable collection of the para swimming medals

“In Std V, Siddhi joined St Xavier’s College’s XRCVC [Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged] for training. This was apart from her school. We travelled to CST from Kalyan for this. It was very fruitful as her learning capacity and understanding improved significantly. She received essential coaching and guidance, which played a crucial role in enhancing her skills,” Pratiksha shared.

“Siddhi learnt many new things at the centre and started using a laptop all the time, and her calculation speed increased,” the Dalvis said, highlighting the importance of inclusive education policies.

Tech support

“The GR by the Maharashtra government was vital in obtaining the necessary permissions for Siddhi to take her exams using a computer. During COVID-19, while other children started with online classrooms, Siddhi faced difficulties. She began using laptops extensively for learning and was allowed to use one in school after the pandemic. This practice was a turning point in her board exam where she appeared for the exam using a laptop,” they stated.

“Siddhi is a national-level swimmer representing Maharashtra and won three gold medals last October and again this year at the 23rd National Para Swimming Championship 2024 in Gwalior,” Pratiksha proudly stated.

“For over a year, Siddhi followed a stringent schedule, balancing her studies and swimming practice. Every day, she woke up at 4 am to study, never missed her swimming practice, and ended her day at 10 pm,” she said.

Siddhi shared her thoughts with a bright smile: “My parents played a critical role in whatever I am today, providing constant encouragement and empowering me to achieve independence in reading and writing. My hard work, along with the support of those around me, has paid off. This gives me the strength to keep going. I plan to opt for commerce in junior college.”

‘Powerful testament’

Dr Sam Taraporewala, executive director, XRCVC, remarked, “Siddhi’s story is a powerful testament to the strength of collaboration, resilience and determination. It underscores the critical importance of creating inclusive educational environments and the profound impact of support from individuals, organisations and governmental initiatives. Siddhi has been associated with XRCVC for the past 10 years. She is very focused and knows what she wants; there is absolute clarity of thought. She is the first student from the SSC in Maharashtra to appear for exams on a laptop.”

He added, “Our efforts have focused on creating an environment where these students can be independent, even while appearing for exams. We advocate for providing mainstream education to all, instead of creating separate infrastructure. Siddhi and students like her set an example of how inclusive and mainstream education is the need of the hour.”

As part of her preparation to travel independently to college, Siddhi is now focusing on mobility training with the help of XRCVC. Her parents believe this will help her gain the independence she needs for her future endeavours. 

10 YRS
Time Siddhi has been associated with XRCVC

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