Rinchen Zangmo & Nim Dorji

In 1995, a resident of Tanju village in Dagana, Tej Bahadur Gurung, on his way to Kalikhola saw a toddler lying on a bed in one of the villages. The baby was born physically disabled.

A decade later, he and his wife adopted the differently-abled boy as they did not have children. They adopted two other children, a boy and a girl.

“I was in touch with the boy’s parents and I came to know that it was difficult to get him enrolled in schools,” Tej Bahadur Gurung said. He then got in touch with the then principal of Gesarling School and ensured that the boy would get enrolled.

The boy was one of the first students when the special education needs (SEN) was introduced in the school in 2016.

He completed class X from Gesarling Central School in Dagana and is currently studying in Class XII in Samtse.

Tej Bahadur Gurung said that despite being physically challenged, his foster son could walk and eat on his own. “He even plays carrom, can speak and write well even with disfigured fingers.”

He said that supporting persons with disabilities would give them hope and provide them with new possibilities.

“It is of great importance to include persons with disabilities,” Tej Bahadur Gurung said. “It brings joy to me that my son is studying now. I feel that accepting who they are and connecting with them is one way to support people with special needs.”

An awareness campaign focusing on the use of language to address persons with disabilities was conducted at the Sunkosh junction in Tsirang yesterday.

The campaign was done to observe the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Around 40 staff from Gesarling Central School gathered at the Sunkosh tri-junction to create awareness about the day and its importance to the commuters.

The principal of the school, Tshering Neema, said that a lot of times people use the terms such as ‘Tsagay’, ‘Tsagem’ or ‘Kukpa’ to address persons with disabilities.

“Through this campaign, we are trying to create awareness on how people with special needs should be addressed,” he said.

Tshering Neema said that people have to be compassionate and help the ones who are differently abled.

There are 13 students with SEN at Gesarling central school today.

SEN coordinator of the school, Chungku, said using inclusive communication with persons with disabilities was crucial. “When we use disability or disabled words first to describe, the focus goes to that word and it undermines the other abilities of the person.

She said use of language to communicate or address persons with different abilities needed care.

Meanwhile, the day was observed in Trongsa dzongkhag at Langthel Lower Secondary School yesterday.

Gewog and education officials, and parents of the persons with disabilities participated in the event.

 The theme this year is ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership, taking action on 2030 development agenda’. It focuses on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development envisaged in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development goals, which pledges to leave no one behind and disability as a cross-cutting issue, to be considered in the implementation of its 17 goals.

 A teacher of Tsangkha Central School, Dawa Drakpa, said that the day was observed in Langthel because Langthel has the maximum number of the people living with disabilities as per the records maintained by Trongsa hospital. “The day was to create awareness to the parents and let them enrol children in school”.

 Tsangkha Central School has 26 special needs students.