NED University confers degree on blind student for first time in 100-year history

Arshad Yousafzai
Thursday, Oct 27, 2022

Thirty-year-old Haleema Sarwar, who is visually impaired, received her MS in applied English linguistics at the 31st convocation of the NED University of Engineering and Technology held on Tuesday.

She is the first blind student in the 100-year history of the NED University who successfully completed her degree. According to Haleema, she enrolled in the MS program in 2018 to study applied linguistics.

She said the varsity administration was reluctant to allow her admission because the programme was running only in the evening shift, due to which it would be inconvenient for her to attend regular 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.

Haleema, however, convinced the NED administration that if she was awarded admission, she would attend her classes regularly without putting any burden on the varsity management. Later, the varsity allowed her admission on condition that a blood relative would accompany her whenever she came to the varsity. Her mother took that responsibility and for the next four years, she would come to the varsity with her daughter until she recently completed her degree.

The course was supposed to be completed in two-and-a-half years but when Haleema had completed her third semester, her father passed away and her mother had to stay at home. “I would have bagged the degree a year ago, but I missed one semester owing to my father’s death,” she said.

Sharing her experience of pursuing MS in applied English linguistics with normal students, she said that her teachers had allowed her to record the lectures, used special software on computer and mobile application to prepare notes for exams. “In today’s era, visually impaired people with the use technology can do what normal people can,” she maintained.

In 2014, Haleema completed her MA in English literature from the University of Karachi, after which she started her career as a teacher. She taught at various institutes, including the Ida Rieu College for Blind & Deaf.

However, she wanted to teach at the mainstream institutes but failed to get a job. She recalled that whenever she applied for a job at a college, the management refused to hire her. “I was upset at that time but later I was thinking that our society is yet to change perception about special persons,” she said.

She called for change in societal perception about 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 a college management refused to give her job because they were of the view she would not be able to control her class and use a black board. “These things were secondary because I could have used modern technology but the college administration was not much confident 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.

On Tuesday, the NED University conferred degrees on over 2,300 graduates in its 2022 convocation. The ceremony was held at the main campus where for the first time, 19 scholars received doctoral degrees. A total of 961 students were awarded masters degrees on the occasion.

The event was attended by Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori, Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, NED Vice Chancellor Prof Sarosh Hashmat Lodi, Universities and Boards Secretary Muhammad Mureed Rahimoon and other officials. Last year, the NED University completed its 100 years.