BEYOND SIGHT: A blind girl’s triumph over disability

Labina and Vikili Assumi during an interview in June 2023. (Morung Photo)

Labina and Vikili Assumi during an interview in June 2023. (Morung Photo)

Kanili Kiho
Dimapur | June 15

As society continue to felicitate and celebrate the achievements of deserving meritorious students in the recently declared results of the HSLC and HSSLC, hitherto unspoken of, Labina, a visually-impaired student from Government High School, Lengrijan is quietly celebrating her own victory–clearing the HSLC with more than 60% aggregate. 

Given the numerous challenges that the sighted world would often take for granted, the academic journey of 28 years old Labina is profound and extraordinary as she defied limitations, shattered stereotypes and has emerged as a beacon of hope and inspiration for others.

At the tender age of one, a disease damaged Labina’s eyesight and her journey began from a world in darkness to overcoming her academic challenges. 

“It has been quite a difficult journey to reach this stage and I owe my success to God,” the first few words Labina expressed when The Morung Express interacted with Labina at an NGO-run home, the place she now calls her own. 

She did her early education from a school for blind children located in Notun Bosti till her 7th grade when the school closed down indefinitely. In 2019, she joined a government school in 8th grade, however, she was denied to appear for her final exams by teachers, citing reasons of her late enrolment in school and given her condition; they felt she wouldn’t make it through. Her friends also did not believe that she could cover the entire syllabus to clear the exam, she recalls.

While disheartened, Labina did not give up. “If not this year, I will try again the next year,” she had thought aloud. After deliberation with the school faculty, the next year with the help of an NGO, she joined school again, only to witness the COVID-19 pandemic begin. 

Coming from an underprivileged family, her hope of getting an education seemed more unlikely even as the pandemic persisted and the lockdown stretched for the entire year. She did not own a Smartphone for her virtual classes and there was no one to help dictate her lessons in the family. She also took ill during the time.

On the verge of giving up, Labina prayed for God to intervene. “If it is your will to let me get education, please help me find a way.” No sooner, just as miracles take place-unassumingly; an NGO took her under their care. At this time, she also received a Smartphone from the Department of Education as an aid to students in need. She cleared her 8th grade with good marks.

In 2021, when she enrolled at Government High School, Lengrijan in 9th grade, Labina constantly worried about her capability as she struggled to keep up with the rest of her non-disabled classmates. Simple task like reading books, writing notes seemed more insurmountable.

Refusing to let her impairment define her capabilities, Labina’s indomitable spirit and unwavering determination spurred her on. Gradually, she also felt at ease as her classmates began to relate to her and accept her. “I would mostly score 10/10 in tests and that somehow changed their perception towards me.” 

Looking back, she acknowledges her classmates and teachers for their welcoming hands and helping her in every way possible. “My classmates would greet me from the school gate and help with my bag and also dictate lessons to me. They made me feel safe and included,” she says with a smile.

Labina has joined Don Bosco Higher Secondary School, Dimapur and is now pursuing her higher secondary education in Arts stream in hopes of becoming a teacher.

Labina also has had the right support to thrust her towards her incredible success. Vikili Assumi, a resource teacher for visually impaired students under Samagra Shiksha. Blind by birth, Vikili has been tutoring Labina since 2010.

As someone who overcame all odds to be where she is today, Vikili, in her own capacity runs a hostel in her home for the visually impaired students and has been supporting and giving them vocational training. She has nine students and all of them attend inclusive government schools.

Regretting that the Naga society in general to this day look upon a person with disability (PwD) as a burden, Vikili stressed on the need of sensitizing people to create a more inclusive atmosphere for them, at homes and in public spaces.

Having witnessed parents giving priority to non-disabled child than the child with special needs (CwSN) to get education, she expressed the importance of educating and guiding them so that they can stand on their own two feet when they mature.

And with the government beginning to bring in more inclusivity in all spheres, “that little-extra push from you will make a huge difference for their future,” she added. 

Vikili teaches Braille, basket weaving, knitting and also teaches piano, apart from guiding and nurturing the students on how to make the most of their lives. She is married and has a four-year-old son and through her YouTube channel, she continues to inspire others while showcasing that determination and resilience can conquer any disability.