Intellectual Disability in Nepal: Is it a Result of Your Past Life?
Intellectual disability in Nepal, as in almost all parts of the world, remains a taboo subject of which nobody speaks and of which almost everyone ignores. Children with neurological disorders are subject to ridicule, discrimination and abuse. Thanks to people like Dawa Sherpa these thoughts, which are rooted in the depths of a society, vanish. With his help an opportunity for these people to integrate is provided to help carve out a future for them, and most importantly to make them feel like they are worthwhile people. Dawa is an example of a self-learning and courageous man, since he learned everything he knows through practice. Ten years ago, he started working at Maitri Griha, a center for children and adolescents with intellectual disability in Kathmandu, Nepal. This center is supported partly by the Fundación Solidaria TAI, an organization that raises funds for them to continue with this beautiful and important project. The center also collaborates with volunteers from Spain that Fundación Solidaria TAI provides that bring new ideas and thus create an exchange of knowledge, with the aim of developing more complete plans to improve their quality of life. However, Dawa tells us hopelessly that there are not many schools and centers in Kathmandu that work with children with special needs, which leaves most children in their homes without any learning process and in the hands of discrimination.
The option to attend ordinary schools is possible; the problem is that teachers follow the curriculum and learning rhythms of children who do not have this kind of difficulty, leaving them behind as they have a slower pace, which creates an exclusion that is the reflection of social reality. "There is no disposition to adapt the rhythm of the classes." He tells us how the brain of a 10-year-old child with special needs is like that of a 4-year-old child, so it is harder for them to learn, which creates frustration in their teachers. That's when they make the decision to call the parents and tell them they have to take them to special schools. The role of teachers and doctors is vital in informing parents of their child's situation and recommending which schools or centers can help them to receive a more adapted education at their own pace. Ignorance in Nepalese society of what neurological disorders are creates distrust and fear and is believed to be a punishment for bad behavior in past lives. The fathers and mothers of these children think that they were born this way because of their bad karma or that of their children. Because of this, they try to hide them from the society or community, sometimes even locking them in rooms so that nobody can see or judge them. When there is a religious celebration, birthday party, a funeral, etc. in which there is interaction with other people, parents do not usually take their children, as they feel shame from the social pressure. "It is harder to control a child with special needs when there are so many stimuli around him. That is why there are innumerable cases of children locked up; their parents do not know how to treat them and they are afraid of what they will say, "Dawa tells us.
The importance of centers like Maitri Griha is that they focus on their process and rhythm of learning, working with them step by step so that they can manage themselves in different daily tasks. To learn something, these children need more steps that are repeated over a long period in order to mechanize the task. "To put on your shoes, first you have to understand what the shoes are, differentiate them from the sandals, then understand what goes on each foot, etc. like that until you learn it". This is the knowledge to which fathers and mothers do not arrive; they usually do everything for their children because they do not believe they will ever learn and do not know how to teach them, which makes them never learn. With perseverance and commitment, these children are able to understand and perform tasks for themselves, "even to have a conversation with you, even for a few minutes," Dawa tells us with a big smile. Dawa tells us that his experience has taught him that just because some children have special needs does not mean they have no value. They are very capable and resilient if you know how to work with them and understand them. If you keep thinking in a conservative way, there is no room for them in society. The government should step in and help change the situation. Although they give approval to this type of school and some financial help to families, it is not enough at all.
According to Dawa, the first step the government should take is to offer jobs for people with intellectual disability Schools can do a great job, since most work with them until they are 15 years old. But what happens to them after they age out of the school? They need to continue with their development, while striving toward gaining independence, and working is the best way to achieve this. "They can work as waiters, receptionists, helping in hospitals, etc. But the problem is that the businesses do not accept them," he tells us with indignation. For Dawa, the government should keep certain jobs for them, and pay their salaries to facilitate this process. This would also help the parents by taking some financial strain from them. "For example, here in Maitri Griha we have two children who are siblings. Imagine supporting them financially, physically and emotionally; it is a very difficult situation. " To finish the interview, we asked Dawa what message he would give to the Nepalese society and the world population, with which he replied: "Please, if you find a child with special needs, try to help him. Hands to hands". Thanks to people like Dawa, we come to understand the situation of people at risk of exclusion and how you can work with them. From patience, understanding and willingness you can create a great change. We are all unique and equal.