Mohammad Absar lives in the village of Maddhyam Sonapahar in Mirershorai Province, Bangladesh. He has three sons and three daughters and supports his family by running a small tea stall.
Perspective: My son Hanif
By Mohammad Absar
My son Hanif is 9 years old and attends the second grade. When he was 4, he got injured while playing. He started complaining about pain in his leg, which became red and swollen. We took him to Chittagong Medical Hospital. The doctors there tried to save Hanif’s leg, but it was severely infected, and eventually they decided to amputate it.
After Hanif lost his leg, other children used to torment him: They called him ‘lame’ or ‘leg-less creep’ and pushed him to the ground when he tried to play with them. They also used to tease his brother, who suffers from mental illness. This always made me sad, and it used to drive my wife crazy. She would quarrel with people who said bad things about her children. As for Hanif – he became very reluctant to go out. He was miserable.
Things began to improve after the local, non-governmental Organization for the Poor Community Advancement (OPCA) started conducting meetings in our area to raise awareness about disability and encourage people to have a positive approach towards those with special needs.
A rehabilitation worker from OPCA visited our home along with a teacher from the primary school. They encouraged us to enrol Hanif in school. Because the local primary school is half a kilometre away from our home, I had to carry my son to school every morning. I started a small shop near the school so I could be there to carry him home at the end of the day. At first, Hanif had a lot of trouble at school. His classmates, just like his peers in the neighbourhood, mocked him and called him names.
One day, the rehabilitation worker informed us that the Centre for Disability in Development (CDD), a nationwide non-governmental organization based in Dhaka, would provide my son with an artificial leg. We travelled to the capital, where Hanif was fitted for the prosthesis and given several days of training. He also received a pair of crutches. His stump is quite small, and this makes it a bit difficult for him to climb stairs. Other than that, he can now do almost everything on his own.
When he first got the new leg, people stared – it was very surprising to see him walking again. I myself had never imagined it would be possible. Some of our neighbours came to visit our home just to see the prosthesis.
Now that my son can walk again and participate in all sorts of activities, other children have stopped calling him names. They don’t push him to the ground anymore. I no longer have to carry Hanif to school – he walks himself, and his classmates are eager to walk with him. The most important thing is that Hanif is happier and more confident. His artificial leg allows him to be independent, and he no longer feels inferior to the other children. He is doing better in his classes and can now enjoy sports like cricket and soccer along with his peers.
A rehabilitation worker has visited Hanif’s school several times to conduct awareness meetings on disability and the importance of inclusive education. Hanif’s surrounding environment is more disability-friendly than ever before. His school works to accommodate his needs. For example, Hanif has trouble climbing stairs, so when one of his classes was scheduled on the first floor, the principal agreed to move it downstairs to make it easier for Hanif to attend.
While he’s in school, Hanif enjoys drawing pictures. Outside of school and during breaks, he loves to play. He wants to be a teacher when he grows up, just like his role models – his schoolteachers Mr. Arup and Mr. Shapan. They love Hanif very much and support him in every way they can. Because our family is very poor, my son’s artificial limb and associated expenses were provided by CDD through the Promoting Rights for Persons with Disabilities project funded by the Manusher Jonno Foundation. If Hanif has any problem with the prosthesis, rehabilitation workers visit our home and take care of it. As Hanif has grown, they have adjusted his artificial limb.
Hanif also receives a disability allowance of 300 Bangladesh taka each month from our district’s Department of Social Services. I take him to the local bank to receive his allowance. Hanif will need additional support to ensure that he can continue his education without interruption.
Above all, I want my son to be well educated. An education will empower him and help guide him so that he can build a meaningful life. I think it would be best for Hanif to get a desk job so he doesn’t have to walk or stand too much. Perhaps he might work in an organization like CDD, where the environment is very disability-friendly. I saw people with various disabilities working there. Such an environment would help my son work to the best of his capacity, while at the same time securing an honourable position for him. He can become an example: Look at Hanif and you will see that with proper support and encouragement, people with disabilities can be effective in society.