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BPF: A ray of hope for gifted children

By Salma Afrose

DHAKA, May 26, 2017 (BSS)-Despite plagued with various cerebral challenges, promising and spirited Pranjal, Rakib, Tahmid and Sania are now having their education at Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation (BPF) Kallyani Inclusive School at Mirpur in the capital.

Among more than 500 children enrolled in the school, 230 of them are diagnosed with cerebral palsy, visual or hearing impairments, autism spectrum disorder and other intellectual disabilities. BPF's relentless efforts for imparting inclusive education to the challenged children have made campus a home of hopes and dream.

Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation, established in 1984 by a group of committed professionals and parents devoted to establishing the rights of children with disabilities, runs the school.

Talking to this correspondent, BPF Executive Director Dr Shamim Ferdous said, "Our ambition is to work for the disadvantaged in society and help them uphold their rights, thus enabling them to be a part of the mainstream society".

She expressed her determination to continue support for the people with disabilities.

"My daughter Nusrat Islam Momo, who was born with down's syndrome, studies in nursery at Kallyani Inclusive School. She is very interested to attend her dance classes and happily performs in different stage prgrammes," Rahela Bagum, mother of Momo said.

"She was brought to the school at the age of only 3 year and six months and a medical assessment was carried out at the child development clinic that included psychological screening. Later, different classes and speech therapy was provided in the institution which helped her overcoming her barrier to communicate and do her daily works. Now Momo has turned nine and you will find her performing dance on different television channels," said Rahela.

"My son Zarir Zidan, 12, was diagnosis with cerebral palsy. When he was 4, my husband left me and Zarir which made the situation more difficult," Shahina Sultana, Zarir's mom said.

"Sometime I feel bad when I think about it, but hope of seeing Zarir doing well keeps me going," a hopeful mother Shahina said with a mild smile.

A total of 306 children were assessed during the year 2016 and children received cromprehensive management programme, said Nusrat Jahan, councilor of BPF.

The foundation offers lunch to all its students to help them overcome malnourished health condition and poor nutritional status. The food programme has helped in improving the nutritional status of the children and thus increased the school enrolment, said Mehfuza Islam, a teacher of the school.

This lunch initiative has helped bring in many students from low economic background, she added.

Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation has not only provided academic support to children with disability, but has also taken measures to rehabilitate "Kalyani" graduates by making them economically active.

Parul, who is a girl with intellectual disability, belongs to a poor family with no agricultural land. Parul came to Rural Inclusive School at Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation when she was only 5 and identified her as mildly intellectually disabled. After starting school it was seen that she was more interested in games and sports especially in swimming rather than study.

At first BPF arranged her swimming practice in the local pond to increase her capacity. Soon she started participating in national level competitions and won many medals which inspired her significantly.

Who would believe that Parul has become a decorated national athlete representing Bangladesh all over the world!

From the Special Olympics, Parul has brought fame for Bangladesh and won bronze medal in 2011 in Greece, 2 gold medals and 1 bronze medal in 2013 in Australia and one gold medal in 2015 in USA.

Besides these, BPF helped her family in repairing their house to ensure protection of Parul and also bought a rickshaw-van for her father under the Income Generating Activities (IGA) programme.

Parul's mother says, "Previously I was known as mother of a lunatic girl. But now people know me as mother of a girl who achieved gold medal. I am very grateful to BPF."

When asked if BPF has received any award, Dr Ferdous said, "We do not need any award. We are proud that we have been able to bring so many children into the mainstream from special schooling. Although we have not received any award, I will always cherish the smiles of the students in the classroom which is priceless and the greatest reward to me."