Structural inhibitions continue to impede special persons’ quest for a better, normal life in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as the entire province, including the central University of Peshawar, lacks a dedicated institution where the differently-abled can be imparted higher education.
In comparison, universities in Punjab and Sindh feature special education departments where trained teachers impart education to the differently-abled. A number of special persons in KP who seek higher education have to thus resort to enrolling in the Allama Iqbal Open University to attain online degrees.
At the University of Peshawar, established since 1950, there has not been any effort on part of the administration to cater to special persons. While a fixed quota exists for handicapped persons, no tangible measures are taken to cater to their various needs.
Even below the university level, the government-run Special Education Complex suffers from neglect. However, the recently passed budget for the ongoing fiscal year (2020-21) has seen an allocation of Rs170m for the purchase of various equipment and the upkeep of the four centres being run by the institution.
Talking to Sabaat, Nazir Shah, the deputy director of Hayatabad Special Education Centre, informed that every year the provincial government earmarks Rs100 million under the head of non-development expenditure while Rs50 million is allocated for purchase of equipment and repair work for the centre. From these funds, he added, the institution undertakes various measures such as providing free-of-charge books, hearing aids, physiotherapy, and operating eight buses to provide free pick-drop services to students.
Qismat Khan, director of the Special Education Complex, stated that their teachers are trained in special education which helps tailor their classes to the needs of the students. He agreed that a special education centre at University of Peshawar would resolve a lot of issues faced by handicapped persons who graduate from school and seek higher education, and provide an avenue for them to contribute to society.
At present, he said the four centres being run under the complex provide education up to 12th grade for those suffering from hearing and speech impairments whereas the visually impaired and physically disabled can get up to primary and middle school education, respectively.
Special Life Foundation’s CEO Ayaz Khan claimed that government funds for special persons have not been utilised properly for three years. He also criticised the lack of progress on a bill pertaining to the betterment of special persons that is lying in the provincial assembly, as well as the chief minister’s promise — made on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities — on December 3, 2018 to increase the government’s job quota of special persons from two to four percent.
Suffering from a physical disability, Abdul Wajid completed his Bachelor’s in Education around eight years ago from Peshawar University. He claimed that the handicapped persons’ job quota is deliberately misinterpreted and misused by both public and private organisations so as to avoid hiring special persons. Wajid explained that organisations do not hire on the 2% disabled quota until they have completely filled up all their other vacancies. He called for an overhaul of the system so this discriminatory practice can be changed and special persons like him can make a decent living.