Ittesama Khatun, a 16-year-old hearing and speech-impaired girl, was invited on November 17 to take over the role of Chief Field Officer at the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), West Bengal, for a day. The move was brought about as a part of several events leading up to the World Children's Day celebrations on November 20.
Ittesama has represented the country in the 2022 Special Olympics Unified Football Cup and has always wished to hold an important position in the office. Making her dream come true, the UNICEF branch of Bengal gave her the authority to recommend changes and ideas to help them serve children better.
Know About Ittesama
Ittesama is a resident at the Asha Bhavan Centre in Uluberia, where she has been living and studying with many other specially-abled children. She is currently attending class 10 at the nearby Karatberia High School and has been actively invested in sports. This interest of hers drove her to qualify for the Special Olympics Unified Football Cup 2022 and win a bronze medal for India. Playing alongside her was Jahira Khatun, who accompanied her to UNICEF as her interpreter.
Soon after Ittesama had assumed the position, she held a meeting with all the staff and discussed the viability of several inclusive changes. By the end of the day, she had placed four key decisions on the table, most of which would positively impact the life and education of specially-abled children like her.
Taking cognisance of her requests, Paramita Niyogi, the officer-in-charge of UNICEF West Bengal, said, "Emphasis would be laid upon making education more inclusive for them."
Bridging Communication Gap
Ittesama encouraged all the staff to receive basic training in sign language, to help them communicate with the specially abled and save a lot of pain and trouble faced by the children in communicating with the officials. Communication with the rest of the world has often been limited for speech and hearing-impaired children, and she hoped to do something about it through her one-day role as the chief officer. As someone who has known first-hand about the issues faced by specially-abled children in daily life and within institutions, she urged for a need to make services inclusive and suitable to those with different needs.
Talking about reforming the existing system, she said, "They should be educated alongside other students of the society." She had observed that one of the key factors that hinder many special-needs children is the absence of adequate and suitable teaching-learning materials.
A report by NDTV quoted Ittesama stating, "Producing such materials for children like us and making them available and accessible for children in childcare institutes and communities is essential" to make institutions inclusive and sensitised to the differential needs of children.
Taking this request ahead, the UNICEF officials assured that they would look into implementing Ittesama's decisions and would be urging the government to produce more teaching and learning materials suitable for them.
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