Looking at Rukhsar Shaikh, 17, race ahead of her classmates as the school bell rings, it is hard to imagine that five years ago she could not even see the ground beneath her feet properly. She owes her miraculous recovery to her teachers who paid for her eye surgery that restored her vision.
Going beyond the call of duty, Veena Donwalkar, principal of Chhatrapati Shivaji Vidyalaya, Dharavi and other teachers from the school, raised funds for her surgery and paid her medical bills. Shaikh was born without corneas in both eyes, her medical report states. The corneas are a transparent layer, which cover the front portion of the eyes. As a result of this, she had blurry vision.
Her teacher, Heena Malick, noticed her disability in Class 5, as she was unable to read and write. “She used to hold her book very close to her eyes when she wanted to read,” said Malick. “Even then she could barely make out the words.”
Malick immediately reported her condition to the principal, who met her parents and sought medical advice. “We found out that her vision had worsened over the years and there was a danger that she could lose all her vision if untreated,” said Donwalkar. “Doctors advised us on immediate corneal replacement surgery.”
But Shaikh, whose father is a taxi-driver, could not afford the surgery. The teachers raised money for her surgery by approaching mahila mandals and even contributing from their own pockets. She underwent two surgeries in 2010 and 2011 at the Lotus Eye Care Hospital, Juhu. These cost Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 each, excluding other medical expenses. Her teachers even accompanied her for the numerous tests that followed.
The surgery has boosted Shaikh’s confidence and academic performance. “I can dare to dream of becoming a doctor now,” said Shaikh. “I could not have done it without the support of my teachers.”
“She has been our student from kindergarten, it was our duty to help her,” said Dilip Shinde, the school trustee.