Tatang was seven years old when a surgery to improve his failing vision went wrong and robbed him of his sight altogether.
“When I came home from the hospital, my heart was broken; I was a wreck,” he says.
Eventually, with the support of friends and advice from other blind people, he picked himself back up. He learned Braille, a universally accepted system of writing used by and for visually impaired people, and went on to study anthropology at university.
When Tatang returned home in Indonesia’s Bandung after graduation, he realised there were no education facilities for children with disabilities in his community. With financial support from his brother, he set up a school in his own home, teaching children to read Braille.
Today, many years later, the school teaches dozens of children with different needs. Along with minors with vision impairment, children with hearing impairment are taught sign language with the help of volunteers, while youngsters with Down’s syndrome get the attention they need.
At times, Tatang struggles to keep the school operating.
“Following my brother’s death, things have been very difficult for me, because not only the school, but my personal life was subsidised by him,” he says.
Most of his students come from families below the poverty line, making it impossible for them to pay any kind of tuition fee towards the upkeep of the school.
Educational opportunities for children with disabilities in Indonesia remain limited. The Indonesian government says it is working towards improvement and passed a new disability rights law in 2016.
More recently, Tatang has been receiving some limited financial assistance from the local government, but he still relies heavily on donations from fellow Indonesians to stay afloat.
“I’ve never thought of giving up. No matter what, the students here are my responsibility, and I have to educate them, so they can have a bright future.”
Filmmaker: Hassan Ghani
Assistant Producer: Surya Fachrizal
Translation: Nurfitri Taher
Executive Producer: Andrew Phillips
Source: Al Jazeera