Leyte student with disability uses computer to 'talk' and learn
LEYTE, Philippines – "There can be no boundaries to human endeavor."
In a small village in Carigara town, Leyte, Tuesday Sicadsicad is learning to become an information technology (IT) specialist.
But Tuesday is unlike other IT students. When she was 9 years old, she fell into a coma for 2 days due to meningitis. She recovered from the coma but the disease took away her ability to speak and to control most of her muscles.
She types Stephen Hawking’s quote with her toes when asked about why she continues to pursue an education despite her disability.
"We are all different. There is always something we can do, and succeed at. While there is life, there is hope," she continues typing the renowned physicist’s quote.
No excuse to learn
According to her grandmother, Dr Marita Gariando, Tuesday has always been eager to learn even before she had a disability. After she dropped out of school in Grade 3, she continued pursuing knowledge through her computer.
"She's a child who really wants to learn. In fact, when she dropped from her classroom, she continued learning from the computer. She is very good in the computer. She learned English from there," Gariando added.
Tuesday's family then found out about an alternative learning system in Leyte that allowed her to continue her basic education. She graduated elementary and high school in Mabini Community School in Leyte.
“At first, in high school, there were some hindrances because they told her she was supposed to attend classes. She was supposed to be physically present in the classroom. I think she was (then required) to attend 3 times a week,” Gariando said.
Tuesday had to learn how to write with her feet. She would take up notes and solve math problems with a notebook on the ground with a pencil in between her toes. But all these hardships proved worth it as she graduated high school with flying colors.
"Education is so important for me because I want to succeed at something," Tuesday wrote when asked why she persevered.
After high school, Tuesday wanted to pursue higher education. It proved difficult since there were no schools in her province offering online classes.
"She told me she wanted to enroll in IT through AMA. So I went to AMA Tacloban and I asked the person in charge there. They said (they had no online programs) and that she really has to be physically present," Gariando said.
Her grandmother told Tuesday of the situation. But the student wouldn't take no for an answer. She wanted online education.
"It is very useful especially for me who has no formal education. I learn a lot through (the Internet). It is my teacher all my life. I want to have a career, work in a job that I’m allowed in. I want to be an IT specialist because that’s what I think I’m good at," Tuesday said.
Gariando returned to AMA Tacloban. The one in charge saw how her granddaughter really wanted to study, so he communicated with AMA online education (OEd).
AMA Education System’s CEO Amable Aguiluz IX heard of Tuesday’s story and was inspired to give the student a full scholarship.
"Actually, our CEO was really surprised because he thought those who will benefit from the AMA online education (AMA OEd) programs are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) since we have a huge number of Filipinos abroad who didn't graduate. We neve thought we'd be able to help people with special needs and those with special conditions," Leonel Fred Ador, AMA OEd sales and marketing head, said.
He added: "We gave Tuesday a scholarship because our vision is 'Education for All.' We want education to be limitless, borderless, and for everyone."
Tuesday, who has been using the Internet to learn all her life, is the living example of how online education can benefit more people, according to AMA.
"We want Tuesday to be the face of AMA OEd to encourage and motivate people that, in this day and age, they can get their bachelor's degree even if they don't go to school or if they're incapable of going to school," Ador said.
According to Gariando, Tuesday is a role model for all students, especially those who don't take their studies seriously.
"She should be an example! She cannot talk, she cannot walk on her own. Despite that disability, she really pursued (her education) through the computer. Mind you, she can really speak good English, better than those who are really attending classroom classes," Gariando added.
To other students, Tuesday had this to say: "My message to those who are capable and very healthy but not schooling, I want them to realize how very blessed they are to have a normal life and all they need to do is go to school."
She added: "They don't need to be afraid of going to school and be laughed at. I want them to realize that there are people like me who really want to go to school but can't because of disabilities."
While she considers Tuesday blessed to have had an opportunity with AMA, Gariando said there is much to be done in making the country’s education system inclusive to persons with disabilities (PWDs).
"The way I observe it, the (PWD) who is interested is the one who goes out of their way (to get an education). If you're not interested, I don’t really think they will look into this problem. I’m sorry to say that," Gariando added.
AMA’s Ador said Tuesday will greatly benefit from the university’s huge number of partners and linkages.
"We can help her through our linkages and partners. We could recommend her to companies that are willing to get talents that can work from remotely and don’t need to go to the office," he said.
Tuesday's example shows that no disability can hinder a person from getting an education. With the right perseverance, there are no limits or borders.
"To those who are like me, yes we are different, but that's not enough reason to stop and not reach your dreams. Just continue dreaming and turn that dream into reality," Tuesday said.
"Like Stephen Hawking, I want to inspire people like me and give hope to those who are hopeless." – Rappler.com
Anyone interested to help Tuesday Sicadsicad can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.