The visually impaired 30-year-old Haleema Sarwar obtained her MS in applied English linguistics on Tuesday during the NED University of Engineering and Technology’s 31st convocation.
She is the first blind student to earn a degree from NED University in its 100-Year history. She reportedly enrolled in the MS program in 2018 to study applied linguistics, according to Haleema.
She said that the university management was reluctant to approve her enrollment because the program only ran during the nighttime shift, making it difficult for her to attend normal classes.
“The varsity management was thinking I would not be able to continue my classes. While some teachers and officials of the varsity were also of the view that attending classes in the evening shift would be risky for a female student who was also visually impaired,” she explained.
The Journey of Haleema:
Haleema, on the other hand, convinced the NED administration that if she was admitted, she would attend her classes on a regular basis without overloading the varsity administration. Later, the university granted her admittance under the condition that she would always have a blood relative with her. Her mother took on that duty, accompanying her daughter to the university for the following four years up till she recently finished her degree.
The course was intended to be finished in two and a half years, but Haleema’s father passed just after she had finished her third semester, forcing her mother to stay at home.
“I would have received the degree a year ago, but I had to miss a semester due to the passing of my father,” she claimed.
She discussed her experience pursuing an MS in applied English linguistics with other students, mentioning how her professors had permitted her to record lectures and use a specialized computer and mobile applications to make exam preparation notes. She argued that modern technology allows visually impaired people to perform tasks normally performed by seeing people.
Haleema graduated with her MA in English literature from the University of Karachi in 2014, at which point she began working as a teacher. She was a professor at a number of institutions, including the Ida Rieu College for the Blind and Deaf.
She further expressed that she had wished to teach at mainstream colleges and educational institutions but was refused by the relevant administrations as they assumed that she would be unable to manage the job responsibilities. She explained that she could work just as well as an able-bodied teacher with the help of assistive technology and that what needs to change is people’s perception of those with disabilities.
She called for a change in societal perception of people with disabilities.
“In today’s era, if any special person has the courage and wants to live a normal life, they can do it easily,” she said, adding that technological advancements had made it possible for people with disabilities to live a normal life.
She recalled that college management refused to give her a job because they were of the view she would not be able to control her class and use a blackboard. “These things were secondary because I could have used modern technology but the college administration was not much confidence that I could do so.”
She also thanked her teachers who supported her studies and encouraged her to pursue higher education. Now, Haleema intends to start her career as a lecturer. She hopes that this time she would secure a good job because she has earned a higher degree.
In its convocation of 2022 on Tuesday, the NED University awarded degrees to over 2,300 graduates. At the ceremony on the main campus, 19 scholars were awarded doctorates for the first time. On this occasion, 961 students in total received master’s degrees.