Disabled Rajshahi University student Razia Sultana Rumki's dreams of getting a higher education might be dashed as her classes are held on the third floor
For Razia Sultana Rumki, education has never been easy.
As the lower end of her body was paralyzed from birth, Rumki spent her formative years confined to a bed. However, that did not discourage her from wanting to receive an education just like her peers.
Inspired by her perseverance, Rumki's father Hafizur Rahman, a truck driver, and mother Naznin Begum, a housewife, continued her education despite the obstacles the society offered.
Rumki and her parents' hard work paid off when she achieved GPA 4.39 from the Science department in her SSC exams in 2016. However, unable to bear the private tuition costs, Rumki was forced to shift from Science to Humanities for her higher secondary education, and she passed her HSC exams by achieving GPA 4.08.
Afterwards, disregarding society's misgivings—and proving her own astonishing determination—Rumki was admitted to Rajshahi University, for its 2018-19 undergraduate session, without taking any pre-admission test classes in coaching centres.
Yet, her dreams of getting a higher education stand might be dashed as, after being admitted to the Department of Urdu, Rumki discovered her classes will be held on the third floor of the Shahidullah Arts building.
In high school, Rumki's mother Naznin Begum would help in her day-to-day movement. But it has become impossible for Naznin— now in her mid-forties—to carry Rumki to the third floor every day.
As a result, Rumki migrated from Urdu to the Arabic and Islamic Studies department; but here also, she faced the same problem as this department's classes are also held on the third floor.
Rumki told the Dhaka Tribune: "Firstly, I cannot move on my own. On top of that, it is impossible for me to climb up the stairs to the third floor every day for my classes.
"Today [Thursday] my mother took me to the third floor," she continued. "But my mother cannot be here all the time. Who is going to carry me then?"
Rumki demanded the administration transfer her to the Bangla department, as its classes are held on the ground level.
After learning of the matter, Rajshahi University Chhatra League Vice-President Mahfuzur Rahman Ehsan appealed to administration higher officials to consider the situation and provide a solution.
He took Rumki to Pro-Vice-Chancellor Chowdhury Md Zakaria on Thursday, where: student advisor Prof Laila Arjumand Banu, assistant Proctor Assistant Prof Rabiul Islam, Assistant Prof Gazi Towhidur Rahman, and others were present.
There, Rumki placed her demands to change her department or create an alternative system to facilitate her mobility.
In the meeting, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Chowdhury Md Zakaria said: "We have talked about this matter before, but we were unable to come up with a solution. The buildings are old; there are no lifts or ramps in them. I understand the humane side of the situation, but we cannot just change departments suddenly."
He instructed Rumki to attend her classes where they are, for now, and assured her they will take further measures in the future.
Chhatra League leader Ehsan said: "We talked with the university administration about the matter. They have given us their assurances. Aside from that, we will try to cooperate financially or through other means."
"Until now, I have been carrying Rumki to her classes during her SSC and HSC," Rumki's mother Naznin Begum said. "But, now, it has become nearly impossible for me to take Rumki to the third floor by myself."
She too, asked the department to consider the humane side of the matter and offer a solution.
Campus sources have said, as the academic buildings are old, they do not have a ramp or lift system installed. However, an organization for people with disabilities, the Physically-challenged Development Foundation (PDF), has come forward on Rumki's behalf.
PDF General Secretary Humayun Kabir said: "The Rajshahi University authorities have shown a favourable response towards helping disabled students. However, we demand the authorities set up a ramp system in the existing buildings and install lifts in future buildings."
He added: "Currently, there are 190 students with disabilities at Rajshahi University. Most of them reside in university residential halls. If there were a number of reserved seats for these disabled students, it would be easier for them to continue their education."