The Story of Amrin Shaikh
Meet Amrin. She’s a strong, confident, articulate Deaf woman who is now receiving the proper bilingual education that she deserves. But it wasn’t always this way…
Amrin was born in a rural village in Gujrat, India. As the only Deaf person in her family and environs, they didn’t know how to communicate with her. She dropped out of school in kindergarten because the teachers didn’t know how to teach her.
Amrin watched her older sisters go to school, as she followed her widowed mother to various jobs. Without language, Amrin did not even know her name nor where she was from.
By a series of fortunate events, Amrin was taken in by a nonprofit organization in the large metropolis of Mumbai, India. While under their auspicious wing, she was able to travel to Nepal, the US, and the UAE. However–still without language–she had no idea where she was nor why they were there.
Young Achievers learned of Amrin and her situation in the summer of 2015 when she was 14 years old. They quickly made arrangements for a gifted Deaf teacher, Sana Ansari, to meet with Amrin. Up until this point Amrin had never met another Deaf person in her life. Sana commenced to teach her Indian Sign Language (ISL), written English, and a basic education. It was then that Amrin learned not just of her name, but of the world around her.
Where is Amrin now?
Amrin’s progress from the fall of 2015 to now has been astronomical. After quickly learning ISL in India, she was then accepted into Aspen Camp in Colorado. On the way there–and through a generous donation by International Deaf Partnerships–Amrin and her mentor Sana were able to see both Washington, DC and NYC. Their trip included a visit to Gallaudet University, an international hub of Deaf scholars and professionals, and the only liberal arts college for the Deaf in the world.
Upon arriving at Aspen Camp in Colorado, the camp director was so struck by Amrin’s rapid development despite adversity, she decided to apply for guardianship. Amrin is now in her care, attending the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind.
Where do we go from here?
We hope that Amrin’s story can be emulated for the countless other Deaf children who have slipped through the cracks of India’s education system. With access to ISL, Deaf children can be properly educated on all school subjects, including written language(s).
However, because 95% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents (who do not know ISL), there is virtually no communication between the child and the parents. In this situation, education cannot wait until kindergarten. If we wait until the child is 4 or 5 to go to school, a crucial window of social, cognitive, and linguistic development will have been missed altogether.
This is why it is absolutely imperative that Deaf children are provided with Deaf mentors (like Sana) early on to teach both the child and the parents ISL. Deaf mentors also serve as a positive role model to the Deaf child, the importance of which cannot be overstated.
With over 800 schools for the Deaf in India, it may come as a surprise that many Deaf children still do not have access to ISL, or cannot afford to attend these schools. We want to change that. It is our belief that every child matters. We resolve to work diligently through Young Achievers to find these children who are falling through the cracks and provide them with the education and access to language that they deserve–and is their inalienable human right.