Published: 06th August 2020
In Priyanka's sights: This visually impaired teacher is determined to clear CET after acing NET, KSET
Priyanka Patoli is a 25-year-old visually-impaired woman who has cleared several competitive exams to become an assistant professor. She speaks about the challenges in accessing the study materials
'If you have a willing mind to learn, then nothing can stop you' is Priyanka's only principle in life. A visually-impaired youngster hailing from Hattarki in Belagavi district, Priyanka Patoli is highly efficient when it comes to academics. In fact, she has cleared her NET and KSET exams in the past couple of years with the singular aim of becoming an Assistant Professor. Currently, Priyanka is preparing for another exam, the Common Entrance Test, that is yet to be conducted, to qualify her for work.
What makes Priyanka's story unique is her willing mind not to give up and to pursue whatever she wants. Though she comes from a humble family in Hattarki, she decided not to give up on her dreams of becoming a professor. Why go into the teaching profession and not choose something else? Priyanka says, "Only a few visually-impaired choose the profession of teaching because of the challenges that come with it, like reading books and delivering lectures. But I love to teach and this way, I want to be an example to many other visually-impaired people who lose hope when they want to achieve something."
Priyanka, who is residing in Bengaluru now, credits Samarthanam, an NGO that works in the interest of specially-abled people. She says, "I was in class VIII studying in Belagavi and Samarthanam had come to our school. They organised a summer camp and invited many children like me to participate. We enjoyed being part of this summer camp. That's also when the Samarthanam organisers had observed my efficiency in grasping and understanding whatever activities we were given. After I completed class X, there was no hope to do my higher studies in Belagavi. So, I contacted Samarthanam and they readily agreed to fund my higher education."
A volunteer at Samarthanam reads textbook and records it through a software (Pic: Facebook)
Priyanka was provided with accommodation in Bengaluru and was admitted to study Arts at Surana College. Explaining the challenges that she had to overcome, Priyanka says, "The sudden shift from a small village to a metro city, travelling from one place to another, grasping everything that was taught at the college, making new friends — these daunting tasks made me feel homesick. As I had studied in a Kannada-medium school, it became difficult to understand what was being taught in the college. However, I did not give up and the English classes at Samarthanam helped me learn the language. The volunteers who came every weekend to teach us translated everything for me in Kannada. That's why my percentage in PUC 1 was not that great. I scored only 72 per cent. By PUC 2, I understood the way to study, plan my day, record the classes and listen to them again and again. That's how I was able to score 86 per cent."
Soon after, Priyanka also completed her Masters in Political Science from Bangalore University. This 25-year-old, who can now speak comfortably in English, has installed various software that can provide her with e-books to study or convert text to audio. She explains, "There are two different software called JAWS and NonVisual Desktop Access. While JAWS is usually to read text available only in English, NonVisual Desktop Access is used to study the text in local languages. Not all the text is available in e-form. Sometimes, I take help from people to read these texts out to me, while I record them."
The real challenge for Priyanka was when she decided to take up competitive exams. A lot of these study materials are not available in the e-form, she claims. "For instance, I had to read NCERT textbooks from class V to X for my NET exams. To help me with this, a lady named Prabha volunteered to read aloud from textbooks, competitive exam books and so on. This has been happening for two years now and she is there for me whenever I need her. Currently, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, she has been doing the same through online classes."
Priyanka's day typically starts with listening to the news and then, attending at least four hours of classes to prepare for her CET exams. She says, "The exams were supposed to happen in March but it was postponed due to the pandemic. Now, the number of cases are steadily rising and we are not sure of when these exams will happen. However, I have not lost focus and plan to work as a guest lecturer in different institutions in Bengaluru."