Mon Bahadur, 30, a former student of Muenselling Institute in Khaling lives in Norbuling, Pemaling gewog in Samtse.

He studied at the institute between 1999 and 2002. The institute policy then was that a child studying in the same class for more than three years has to leave the school for good.

Mon Bahadur dropped out of school and remained home. He was one of the victims of that system. The teachers then had no notion of differentiated instruction, accommodation and adaptation strategies.

“It is my fate for not being able to excel academically,” he said. “While my friends did well academically and are gainfully employed, I am back in the village, once again depending on my parents and brother.”

He, however, said he was lucky to have a loving and supportive family since there were stories of many other disabled people who were ill-treated and lived a hard life.

Although visually impaired, he has framed a clear mental map of the village and can locate houses, roads and footpath with astounding accuracy. With the aid of a wooden stick, he has the talent to skillfully walk all the way to any place in the village without bumping onto anything.

“He knows all the houses, people and place in these villages,” a villager said. “He can go to the shop, buy things and take back home without any problem.”

Mon Bahadur spends his time breaking stones to gravel for construction of houses and roads. He also contributed free labour for the construction of a temple in the village.

With the support of the chiwog tshogpa, Arjun and the Samtse Kidu Officer, he receives a monthly allowance of Nu 1,200 and his father an equal amount for looking after him.

“I am so grateful to His Majesty, the kidu officer and the tshogpa,” he said. “Had there not been such a support, I would not be on the platform, where I stand today.”

“However, I feel guilty that I am a burden to His Majesty and my parents and wish I had a job not only to be able to stand on my own feet, but also contribute to My King and my family.”

He said he feels so proud to be born in a country like Bhutan, where the King sympathizes his least productive subject like him. Few kilometres from here, by crossing the border, one can see fellow persons with disabilities begging. Fortunately, such is not the case for me here.”

Asked of his future, he expressed his worries about the sustainability of the support he receives from the kidu office and his family.

“To date, I am well looked after by my parents and my brother. I am worried who will look after me when my parents are no more with me or if my brother gets married and decides to move elsewhere,” he said.

He hopes to save money by breaking stones and plant areca nut to help him sustain.

Like Mon Bahadur, many students who were unable to excel academically dropped out and had to depend on their families. Unfortunately, neither the institute nor the Special Education Needs division has records of those who dropped out, status of their lives and their location.

Mon Bahadur hopes that a means of livelihood through vocational training to those who cannot excel academically and an outreach programme will be introduced to equip them with the techniques of orientation and mobility and activities of daily living.

“Through such programmes, they can cook their own food, wash clothes and lessen the burden to the families.”

Contributed by 

Kuenga Chhoegyel, 

a visually impaired teacher of Muenselling Institute,