Light at the end of the tunnel
As we mark the Children’s Day on October 1, Uththara Kapugamage speaks to the visually impaired young achiever Brian Kingstan who clinched 9 A’s at the 2020 GCE Ordinary Level exam, inspiring many fellow youngsters to take the cue that a positive mindset can clear many hurdles in life.
I will do everything in my power to make my mother happy says the 16-year-old Brian Kingstan. Born as the second son to a family in Mattakuliya, Brian is visually impaired. Yet his disability is no impediment for him to realize his dreams of reaching the sky and making his mother proud. My mother has been my biggest strength, my mentor and my everything. She guided me through each and every step of my journey and the faith she has in me has given me the strength to achieve my dreams and to make her the happiest mother on earth”, reflects Brian. This young boy having obtained 9 A’s for his Ordinary Level Examination in 2020 while sitting it in Braille made history as the first visually impaired student to achieve 9As here at home. Brian is a proud product of the Ratmalana Blind School.
Just as the saying goes “all work no play makes Jack a dull boy”, Brian is equally talented in his sports and extra-curricular activities. He was able to secure the senior championship in 2019 at the school sports meet. He was also placed 3rd in Shot Putt event at the Para Olympics Games organized by the Sports Ministry in the same year.
Brian proves that support from family, school and the community has a great impact on the success of a child. “A positive mindset needs to be created from childhood, that a child can achieve anything. It is important that family, school and the community empowers a child to transform experiences and even mistakes to a learning process and thereby enable personal growth,” says Priya Kingstan, mother of Brian. Priya says that ensuring inclusivity and equality among siblings also boosted Brian’s personality development. “Both my children are treated the same way.”
Brian reflects that if he can achieve such good results, then anyone else also can. “Being visually impaired becomes no barrier for success if you are hardworking, motivated and dedicated. What matters is the mindset. One needs to identify strengths and weaknesses and develop the strengths while trying to mitigate one’s weaknesses. Every person is unique and has different talents. If you are passionate, you can realize your dreams,” says this gifted and positive-minded adolescent.
It is essential that the visually impaired are not treated differently but with respect and the same level of dignity that anyone else would be accorded reiterates Brian who calls for educational reforms for the visually impaired children. “Presently visually impaired students like us have no options in the Advanced Level stream. We are compelled to study Arts subjects which can limit our future career choices. This should not be the case, every child should have a right to pursue a study stream of his or her choice for which necessary policies and resources should be in place.” Brian who aspires to be a lawyer makes a voice for his fellow brothers and sisters, to enable them wider career opportunities with the commitment of all stakeholders in society.
The cost of assistive devices for the visually impaired is another bottleneck to improve their quality of life. “The Braille writer which is used for is quite expensive and the generosity of the other individuals to assist them in purchasing would be greatly beneficial for their education notes Brian who reiterates that what is needed support and empowerment instead of sympathy.
Uththara Kapugamage is young executive reading for her MSc. A graduate of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, she is also the founder of Munch, an online food store.