Quadruple amputee Indian teacher says education helped her survive


QWhen Pratibha Hilim, an Indian teacher, gangrened her hands and feet three years ago, Pratibha Hilim, an Indian teacher, was able to overcome the horrific ordeal.

At 51, with a piece of chalk or pencil on her arm, she now teaches young children in the remote village of Karhe, east of Bombay, where educational opportunities are minimal.

“I’ve always loved children and if I had just sat there and done nothing, I would be in a different world now, thinking about what happened to me,” she told AFP.

In 2019, Ms. Hilim was diagnosed with a severe form of dengue fever, which was made worse by gangrene and required the amputation of her right hand. A few weeks later, the surgeons had to amputate his left hand. Then both legs below the knees.

“When they amputated my first hand, I was desperate that there was nothing I could do in the future. I fell into depression. I haven’t spoken to anyone for eight days,” she says.

But encouraged by her family during her recovery, Ms. Hilim finds purpose in her life by returning to teaching.

tutoring at home

For three decades she had worked at a local elementary school. In 2020, with all schools closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she begins homeschooling students whose parents are not wealthy enough to offer distance learning to their children.

Schools reopened a few months ago, but 40 children from the village are still attending classes.

“My children love to learn,” says Eknath Laxman Harvate, a farmer whose daughter regularly attends Ms. Hilim’s classes.

Like many children, Mr. Harvate had to drop out of school and go to work as a teenager because his family didn’t have enough money to pay for his education. He says he wants a better future for his own children.

“We will educate her as long as she wants,” he says of his city. “I would have loved to continue studying. I’m sad that because of problems at home I had to stop and go to the fields.”

Like most of her students, Pratibha is Hilim Adivasi, a generic term for members of indigenous tribes in India.

The Adivasis are victims of pervasive discrimination and the fact that they typically live in remote regions leaves them on the sidelines of India’s economic boom.

In Karhe, many families are forced to take their children out of school in order to let them work.

“As soon as they can read and write, it’s enough and the children are ready to go to the fields,” Ms. Hilim regrets.

The teacher tries to push the children to continue learning so that one day they can choose their own destiny.

Currently awaiting prosthetics, she says her own struggle to continue pursuing her profession shows the power of determination.

“I thought I would be nothing without my limbs, but then I made a firm decision,” says Ms. Hilim. “I have decided that I can do anything and I will do anything.”

2022-06-03 20:47:33 – Karhe (India) (AFP) – © 2022 AFP

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