She can barely walk on her own and is often accompanied by her father or mother, even at school. Affected with cerebral palsy, Arya Raj is having trouble speaking and writing and needs someone even to turn the pages of the books to read. But surpassing all odds, the class VII student of Government Vocational Higher Secondary School for Girls, Nadakkavu, is scaling heights in academics and quiz events, competing with children without disabilities.
Winner of a number of quiz events at school and at sub-district levels, Arya came first at the recently held Independence Day quiz, competing with students of 40 schools from three sub-districts. The contest was organised by the north Urban Resource Centre of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Class topper at the school and the first differently-abled child from the state to receive the LSS scholarship, Arya was one among the 25 kids from Malabar region to bag the child achiever award of UNICEF.
The award was instituted in association with the 25th anniversary of United Nations Child Right Convention last year, for her achievements in fighting disability.
“It was negligence in treating the neonatal jaundice that she developed on the third day of her birth which led to this state. Though she was referred to the Government Medical College in Kozhikode at a later stage, she was denied appropriate physiotherapy on time that further aggravated her state. Having faced huge difficulties during the earlier stages of schooling, the prizes she is receiving now are a boost to her confidence and inspire her to delve further into academics,” says Arya’s father Rajeev Kallummal, an architect. Rajeev is also president of the organisation ‘Unity of Parents for the development of Differently-Abled Children’.
“What excites her the most is to be at school and she often tries to be like a normal child, taking notes on her own and ruling away any special treatment from others. Despite it being painful, she writes the examinations herself and seeks help only to turn pages or to hold the answer sheets.
She was desperate to join school and due to her incapability to stand and walk, we had to carry her in our arms from class II. She had only begun to sit-up while joining class I. Now she can walk with the support of others,” says Pushpaja M K, Arya’s mother, who works with PWD, who reaches school every afternoon to help her child have food or to take her to the toilet.
The teachers at the school are all praise for Arya and her class teacher Vanajakshi P even describes her as an asset to the school.
When asked about her interests, Arya says that she loved to read, apart from being at school. “I like the books that offer me general knowledge especially quiz books or Science-related magazines like ‘Eureka’ and ‘Sastrakeralam.’ I read them with the help of my mother. Besides, I also like short stories and novels. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Vaikom Mohammed Basheer’s Balyakalasakhi are my favourites,” she adds.