More than what meets the eye: Visually impaired, a teacher looks beyond his disability – The Express Tribune
Mehboob Ali Chandio does not allow his visual impairment to come in the way of his teaching. He can barely see, yet manages to make it from his house to the school to teach his 60 students. PHOTO: SHAHZEB AHMED/EXPRESS
Mehboob Ali Chandio writes a five-digit addition problem on the blackboard, one number on top of the other. The children read each number out aloud. Chandio draws a neat line under the two, adds a plus sign before the bottom number and then turns around.
His unseeing hazel-green eyes stare into the distance and he waits for an answer. The children respond, in unison. They answer correctly; he smiles with satisfaction and turns around with his arms slightly outstretched in order to feel his way back to the board, and writes the answer on the board.
This is Chandio’s everyday routine ever since he was hired to teach the kids in 2011. The 28-year-old is visually impaired, he can barely see and yet he makes his way here from his house, five kilometres away, one way or the other; sometimes hitching rides, sometimes catching a qingqi or a bus headed in the general direction of the school, and then makes the last part of the journey on foot. The children sit cross-legged on the chequered floor mat – different ages, different sizes, different ethnicities, both genders – all learning the same thing.
The tilted bamboo roof provides shade from the scorching sun and the thick mud wall on three sides of the room helps regulate the temperature. There is a broken wooden chair at the head of the class where Chandio sits. The room has no door, no electricity, is poorly lit, the roof bends precariously inwards – held upright with a long stick that is just as equally bent -and the floor mat is dirty; yet the children treat it almost as if it was a sacred sanctuary, removing their slippers outside the room before entering. There is no government school in Daur taluka’s Ghulam Mustafa Chandio village. This is all they have and until they are afforded something better, they will continue to cherish this.
Chandio teaches the students all of the subjects and ‘school’ runs from 8am to 1pm. A total of around 60 students are enrolled in the class but only a third of them have shown up. The University of Sindh BA graduate is paid Rs5,000 by non-governmental organisation National Education Foundation and has been teaching here since 2011. To make ends meet, he provides tuition to Matric students on the side and charges them between Rs300 and Rs400.
He does not know why he is nearly blind, nor does he know if he will become completely so and in the uncertainty, he refuses to make any long-term plans, rather focusing on short-term goals. “I do not know what the future holds. Maybe they will build a government school soon and then I will be out of a job,” he said, unable to hide the dread in his voice. However, for the time being he is teaching these children and doing the job he loves; as far as he is concerned, life is good.
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