Visually impaired Afghan teachers learn computer in St. Xavier’s College Mumbai
17 March 2014

Visually impaired Humayoun Azizi and Sayed Ashraf Badakhsh experiencing computer first time
There were moments when he felt totally lonely. He says, “It was tough to be suddenly dependent on others for everything.”
In the months of January and February at St Xavier's College, Mumbai, one would have seen a remarkable sight of two young men sitting for hours in learning computers and English. Their desire to learn was infectious and only a closer look would reveal that they were actually blind. 

Humayoun Azizi is from Darulaman in Kabul. He has been blind from birth. His mother and two of his siblings are also blind. He has done his graduation studies from the Department of Persian studies in Kabul University. Sayed Ashraf Badakhsh is from Microryan, Kabul. He lost his vision in 2011 due to a genetic disorder of the retina. Prior to losing his eyesight, he had done his Bachelor’s degree in Law and was a practising lawyer.

Today, both are teaching at the Kabul School for the Visually Impaired, which is in Darulaman. Humayoun teaches English and Persian, while Ashraf teaches History, Civics, Geography and Law.

Life for a visually impaired individual is often challenging and Humayoun says that in Afghanistan it is difficult for people to get jobs. The important thing, however, is to accept the problem and work your way through it. Ashraf found it difficult to adjust to life after he became blind. There were moments when he felt totally lonely. He says, "It was tough to be suddenly dependent on others for everything." Both of them are devout Muslims, and in their life they have had moments where they wondered why Allah who is merciful made them blind. Today, they believe that Allah knows best. They firmly believe that both good and bad are in Allah's hands. Faith helps them move on with their lives but they are sure that as their knowledge of Allah and the world increases, their problems too would diminish.

Humayoun rues the fact that blind students have limited opportunities to get a good education. He however, hopes to learn more and go ahead in life. Ashraf too holds that being visually challenged is not something that should stop anyone from learning more. He holds that today learning English and computers are very important to progress in life. 

Initially both of them were very apprehensive about coming to India but at the end of their stay in Mumbai, they are really grateful for having had the opportunity. While at St. Xavier's they received intensive training at the Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC). Here they learnt to make better use of the computer and also to use screen reading software such as JAWS. They also spent hours studying English under the able tutelage of Ms. Calveena.  Humayoun describing his experience says, "I feel like I have started a new life." 

As they leave India they are filled with many treasured memories. They feel that Indians are kind and they particularly enjoyed the weather in India. In the time they spent here they had begun to enjoy the 'chappatis' and the spicy curry in the College canteen. At times they missed their life in Afghanistan and particularly the hot cups of tea. On returning to Afghanistan, they hope to implement all that they have learnt and develop their school in to a Resource Centre for the visually challenged in Afghanistan.

John Cyriac S.J, Jesuit Scholastic from Bombay 

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