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Monthly Archives: August 2022

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Hey, we’re ‘Special’…

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I’d like to begin with a famous quote by Stephen Hawking, one of the renowned scientists of the 20th century, who had motor neuron disease and was confined to a wheel chair and had a computer system that allowed him to communicate.

“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”

Indeed, special needs children shouldn’t feel that they’re ‘disabled in spirit as well as physically’.

Samuel Kirk, the American psychologist and special education pioneer, who first coined the term “learning disability” in 1963, said: “When youngsters in the same class room are remarkably different, it is difficult for the teacher to help them reach their educational potential without some kind of assistance. The help that the schools provide for children who differ significantly from the norm is called special education”.

Special educators are responsible for the educational needs of children with a wide range of disabilities. These children also require different services in their educational experiences. Knowledge of each type of disability and the specific needs of the children with that disability are crucial if he or she plans to be involved in the field of special education.

Unfortunately, acceptance among parents is a great deterrent to the needs of special children. Their frustration and disappointment is understandable, but they should bear in mind that every child is unique and each has hidden potential which we should ignite.

We may recall here what Einstein had said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Coming down to the local scenario, catering to the needs of these special children and awareness about this population picked up late in West Bengal and was in a nascent stage even in the first decade of the 21st century.

Fortunately, things have taken a turn for the better and many organizations have come forward to lend their helping hands. In Kolkata, IICP, Manovikas, Noble Mission, Pradeep and Julian Day New Mission School and Training College have been doing a commendable job with unwavering commitment and unflinching zeal.

Let us hope more and more organizations will step out and say to these children: “I just called to say I love you” (to remember blind American singer Stevie Wonder’s famous song).



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Where have all those Bengali ‘buddhijibis’ gone now…

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Nelson Mandela once said: “Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by the students…

“Patients die at the hands of such doctors. Buildings collapse at the hands of such engineers. Humanity dies at the hands of such religious teachers. Justice is lost at the hands of such judges. Money is lost at the hands of such economists and accountants.”

“The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.”

The above messages are brutally true in the context of Bengal’s appalling state of education!

Bengal, which used to lead the country from the front during pre-Independence days, has now fallen into a gutter, recovery from which seems almost impossible unless the current leadership is shown the door. Well, the ‘fall’ had begun from later years of the Left regime which ruled the state for over three decades. But, at least, there was some semblance of respectability toward true academicians. Merit and unblemished experience were given preference then in matters of appointment in most cases.

Unfortunately, over the last 11 years, the education sector is neck-deep in corruption and is run by thoroughly corrupt, uneducated politicians and their lackeys aided by bumptious bureaucrats. The recent recovery of huge cash and ornaments from former education minister Partha Chatterjee’s aide’s houses speaks volumes for the extent of that filth, corruption and nepotism.

Sadly enough, the Bengali intellectuals, barring a few, have remained strangely silent and mute spectators to the current malaise afflicting the education sector. (We may recall the leadership efforts of German intellectuals– Karl Jaspers, Thomas Mann, Friedrich Meinecke, and Bertolt Brecht– and their contributions to post-war cultural reconstruction.)

The reasons for Bengal’s collapse of education, however, aren’t far to seek. From admission to colleges and universities to recruiting teachers, political influence, money and tolabaaji (extortion) are playing a major role. The faceless and shameful ‘buddhijibis” (including poets, writers, artists, theatre personalities and musicians) have been blatantly purchased by the powers-that-be: they’ve been given numerous facilities and rewarded with all kinds of “…bhushans”. Filmmaker Anik Dutta has rightly pointed out that the word “buddhijibi” now sounds like an ‘abuse’. It’s truly deplorable that the Bengali intellectuals are still keeping mum over the spate of allegations against the former education minister and have never condemned the current corrupt leadership and come out on the streets to show genuine concern for or stand by the agitating job-seekers who have been holding dharnas over the past 500 days braving police torture, sun and rain.

Ironically, these are the ‘buddhijibis’ who took to the streets during the Nandigram massacre in 2007.

The ‘buddhijibis’ have a crucial role in the fight against corruption as they can demand accountability and transparency from the government. While the masses are appalled by the deep-rooted corruption in the sphere of education in Bengal, these spineless and sycophantic intellectuals have remained silent and are waiting in the wings to jump the ship.

Bengal badly needs outspoken, upright and intrepid writers like Nabarun Bhattacharyya whose writings often brought him in conflict with the powers-that-be and who till the end remained a fearless voice against the power and corruption.

Cartoon by Suparno Chaudhuri

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