She comes across as an extremely shy young girl at first glance. She hesitates to speak and, given the choice, she’d just rather listen to others than talk herself.
But the moment her schoolteacher starts talking about Sara’s love for dance, her eyes light up and she can’t seem to stop her rambling.
Sara Sheikh picked up her passion for dancing at the Childreach School for special children in Khar, where she has been studying for the last seven years, while putting together the school’s annual day performances with her classmates.
But the 16-year-old wasn’t always so cheerful and comfortable with herself. The fact that her IQ was below average and made her a slow learner affected her immensely. And it singled her out as the worst student at the regular school in which she was studying, while her family lived in Matunga.
Her constantly-falling grades did nothing good for her self-confidence and finally, her performance was so badly affected as a nineyear-old, her school was unable to promote her. It was then that her family shifted her to Childreach School in Khar.
“I found it a bit difficult initially to adjust to this special school. My older school was so huge with so many students in every class. There are very few students here. But the teachers here were nice and paid attention to me. And I slowly began liking things here,” she says.
It’s now been several years since her family has shifted from their Matunga home to Mira Road but the distance has never deterred Sara from travelling to Khar alone everyday to attend school.
Sara is now in Class X now and studies a range of practical subjects like computers, secretarial practice, home science, and catering that are designed in a syllabus brought out by the NIOS Board in New Delhi for children who are slow learners or have learning disabilities.
Realising fully that opting for ‘regular’ career streams like engineering or even a BSc is not an option for her, Sara has set sights on making one of her other interests a career she can depend on.
“I have loved dancing ever since I was a child. Though I have never had any formal training in it, just listening to songs makes me start tapping my feet. I would love to try my hand at choreography. That would make me really happy,” she says. But Sara’s teachers may have to step in and sell the idea of a career in choreography to her family, which is not very convinced that it’s the right path for their daughter.
Meanwhile, Sara has other interests. Like helping the younger students in school after her classes are over. “She helps out a lot and the younger children just love her,” says her headmistress, Farida Asrani. Sara then goes back to mira Road and takes charge of her own home, looking after her grandmother and cooking dinner before her parents return from work.
The coming months, after Sara finishes her exams, will probably be her last in school. “I hope I will be able to pursue what I want,” she says, with a smile.
(For more information on support for children with learning disabilities and slow learners, contact Childreach School, Santacruz, on 65748796 or 26482274).