How blind is India’s education system?
While some top officials at CBSE and IIT JEE committee mull over this question, a brilliant, hard working and smart student has decided that it’s better to take his talents abroad, where they will be fully appreciated rather than waste his energy trying to fight the system in India. And oh, did we forget to mention, the student in question happens to be visually impaired.
Visual impairment hasn’t stopped him from pursuing Computer Science at Stanford
Sawhney is currently an undergraduate, studying his Bachelors in Computer Science at Stanford University. While he is among the several Indian students studying in the US, he is visually impaired and that sets him apart. IITs of India saw his impairment as a disadvantage. Stanford offered Kartik an opportunity to follow his passion – Science. But this story is not about Stanford or the IITs. It’s about Kartik and his determination to overcome what are commonly considered as insurmountable hurdles.
Hurdles on his way to follow his dreams
Kartik, who is completely visually impaired had to wage his first war against CBSE before being they allowed him to study Science in class XI. The CBSE was not convinced that Kartik would be able to handle the ‘visual inputs’ — graphs, diagrams, models — required for Science. He wrote more than two dozen letters to the CBSE and its controller of exams, an NGO campaigned for his cause and his school negotiate for him before they allowed him to opt for Science in class XI.
“It was very difficult to convince the authorities to let me study Science,” says Kartik, the son of a car-accessories store owner. Once he finally got to study Science, his school — Delhi Public School, R K Puram — found ways to help him. “For practicals, the teacher explained the apparatus and in the test. I got multiple choice questions based on the practical curriculum,” he told.
He did not let his efforts go waste
“After class VIII, most blind were exempted from studying Maths and Science. They would be offered subjects like music,” George Abraham, CEO of Delhi’s Score Foundation, states in one of his interviews. But Kartik stuck to his guns and decided to pursue the subjects of his choice-Science and Computers. And for anyone who had doubts about his abilities, his results spoke louder than words. Sawhney scored 99 in Computer Science and 95 each in Mathematics, English, Physics and Chemistry. He scored 479 out of 500.
But he hit a roadblock when it came to IIT JEE.
When it came to IIT!
Kartik was hoping to complete his education in India. His next choice was Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). However, the IIT entrance exam doesn’t cater to blind candidates. This made it impossible for Kartik to study Science and Engineering at one of India’s renowned institution.
“The journey was discouraging at times. But it’s satisfying to have gotten into Stanford, which has a support system for visually-challenged students,” said Kartik.
Despite all odds, Kartik is now at Stanford and hopes to become a software developer. He also aims to produce applications that are accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities. It’s time the Indian education system pulls up its socks and fills glaring gaps before India loses many more ‘Kartiks’ to another country.