Education is dropped down the list of priorities when survival tops the list for many children having disabilities from birth.
But Manik Rahman, born with multiple congenital disabilities, was fortunate enough to be born to educated parents who did not give up on him.
Born in Chandrakhana village of Kurigram’s Phulbari upazila, Manik has no arms and a deformed shorter leg. He was also born with cleft lip and cleft palate, an opening or split in the roof of the mouth and the upper lip.
But none of these physical impediments could hold the 14-year-old back from pursuing education and appearing in this year’s Junior School Certificate Examination (JSC).
Manik has come this far because his parents, especially his college teacher mother Mariam Khatun, a master’s degree holder, always believed in him and protected him in every step of the way.
From his early age, when Manik started to show interest in reading and writing, Mariam and her husband, Mizanur Rahman, a drugstore owner and also a master’s degree holder, took on the challenge of doing everything possible for their son’s education.
Mariam said it took years of patience to train her son in holding a pen with the toes in his right leg -- the only good limb of his body.
“It took a long time for Manik to be able to hold a pen with his toes. I spent hours training him every day. Slowly, he started to scribble something illegible. After a while, with consistent practice, he eventually learned how to write letters. Now he has come a long way from that stage and his writing is quite nice.”
Manik’s parents then got him admitted at a primary school run by an NGO. He later got admission at Phulbari Government Primary School, from where he took the Primary Education Completion (PEC) examination in 2016 and secured the national scholarship under “talent pool” grade.
This year, Manik attended the JSC exams from Fulbari Jachhi Mian Government High School in the upazila.
“My husband and I took turns in tutoring him until the seventh grade. For eighth grade, we got him a house tutor for two subjects. We both are still tutoring him for the other subjects,” his mother said.
“Now we’ve been trying to train him to be self-reliant. He now can eat using spoons and needs minimal assistance while taking a shower or using the restroom,” she added.
Mizanur, the boy’s father, said Manik’s cleft lip and cleft palate were fixed through several medical surgeries at his early age and they have been doing everything in their capacity to make things easier for Manik, the older of their two sons.
Their younger son, Mahmudur Rahman Muhim, is nine years old and he is in third grade in school.
Mizanur said Manik keeps himself engaged in studies for around eight hours daily and to ensure his comfort, he has recently made for him a customised wooden desk on which he can easily write and study while sitting in his chair.
Since Manik has set the target to be a computer engineer, his parents got him a desktop and a notebook computer as well. Manik now uses the computers to write, draw or edit videos.
“I was born without arms, but only by writing with my toes, I reached eighth grade in school. I want to be a computer engineer and I am preparing myself for it,” said Manik with sparkle in his eyes.
“For the ones who have disabilities like me, I would say that give it your best shot just like I do and you will also succeed in reaching your goals. There’s nothing in the world man can’t do.”