Anjaneyulu, who is visually challenged, comes from a small rural village called Nagavarum located in the Mahabubnagar District, one of the more economically and technologically backward districts of Andhra Pradesh. When asked about his hometown, he mentioned that his village has hardly a few hundred people but most of them are illiterate or poorly educated. He also added that his village does not have good schools or health facilities. “No one knows how to take care of visually challenged children, and people generally think that such children have no potential to benefit society. No one would talk to me when I was small, including my relatives and neighbours — Anjaneyulu said.
Family Matters and Humble Beginnings
“Mine is a small family – my father, who is not alive; my mother; my younger brother; younger sister; and myself. Basically my family depends on the daily labour income to feed ourselves. My mother and my brother work very hard to take care of our basic needs.”
Having been born with physical and economic challenges, Anjaneyulu fostered great respect for education as a means to becoming independent and successful. Anjaneyulu left his home ten years ago and came to Hyderabad to get his education. He is now preparing to graduate from one of the most reputed colleges of Andhra Pradesh.
When asked about his transition to a big city like Hyderabad, Anjaneyulu replies, “It was very hard to live away from my family initially, and catching up with so many languages.” Despite the hardships, Anjaneyulu says he was inspired to move to the big city because he wanted to get good education and support his family.
“I didn’t want to become a burden to my mother and brother. Also as I cannot do daily work due to my disability, I felt education is the best way to contribute to my family, village and my visually challenged friends.” With his teachers’ guidance and encouragement, he completed all the classes from first grade to tenth grade successfully with good standing in each class.
When he was in school, Anjaneyulu developed a keen interest in sports and extracurricular activities. “I love playing chess which helps me with logical thinking.” He won several prizes in chess and also in other activities.
Post Grade School Challenges
In Andhra Pradesh, most blind schools offer free education along with living and boarding to their students till they finish schooling, but upon completing school, blind students begin to face more challenges. “I wanted to receive higher education and achieve my goal of becoming an accountant but I hardly had any guidance on how to go to junior college and afford an education,” says Anjaneyulu. After leaving the safety net of their schools, most blind students are unable to find the support to pursue higher education and explore their full potential; instead, they give up on further education and settle for low-level jobs.
“I was very much depressed and confused after my SSC about how to take right decision to study further. Many students end up dropping out at this point due to lack of financial support, educational services and mentoring. However, I was determined to study further and become a CS (Company Secretary). So I waited for the right moment, and Samanvai helped me. Samanvai volunteers know the situation of visually challenged students, so they go to schools and talk to students who are about to complete their schooling about potential help that Samanvai may offer.”
Help from Samanvai
This is where Anjanayulu’s life took a different turn. “I was fortunate to talk to Samanvai volunteers, especially my school teacher Swarnalatha, and express my strong interest in education and my challenges.” Once Samanvai volunteers saw how sincere Anjaneyulu was about education, Samanvai started supporting him. “Ever since then, I never looked back on anything. Samanvai provides me with necessary financial support to help me pay for my college, books, educational tools like digital voice recorders, braille slates and so on, living and boarding and also for my personal expenses. I am fortunate to be mentored by such dedicated volunteers.”
Anjaneyulu likes to browse the Internet and read the news. He also likes to chat on social networks like Facebook. “At first, I did not know how to operate computers, but after taking computer training courses under the supervision of qualified faculty at the Samanvai computer centre, I am able to fulfil my educational and personal interests on the computer.” Samanvai training programs are designed with a clear focus on students’ computer needs and include the use of appropriate assistive technology software and hardware. “I have learnt to type using Talking Typing Tutor and I got all my books scanned using the high configuration scanner at the computer training centre.” At Samanvai, students who are trained to use computers can use the computer centre to do assignments, scan books and have internet access even after the course is completed. “Whenever I come in, I receive great care and good support from the Samanvai staff.”
With the strong support and recommendation from Samanvai volunteers, Anjaneyulu joined Srichaythanya Junior College (highly reputed junior college in the state) and completed his degree in Math, Economics and Commerce. Currently Anjanayulu is in his second year of graduation from Aurora Degree College, after successful completion of first year with a score of 75 percentile. “Now I am preparing for CS (Company Secretary Foundation course),” he said.
When asked about how Samanvai can benefit other students like him, Anjaneyulu explained, “Samanvai provides the right kind of mentoring and necessary skill training to students interested in education, rehabilitation, employment, sports and much more!”
Looking to the Future
In the future, Anjaneyulu wants to become a company’s secretary for a multinational company and become a social entrepreneur. “I am lucky to get support from Samanvai, which thousands of deserving students are missing this opportunity. So I would like to become a role model and help other people who face similar challenges in education.”