More than 260 million children globally aren’t in school and one Balinese teenager born with a disability has risen above her obstacles to graduate at the top of her class at the Bali Mandara School.
18-year-old Ni Kadek Namiani Tiara Putri was born without a lower right leg and grew up in a poor community in Badung in south Bali, with her parents and two sisters. She later moved to Nusa Dua with her family.
Since she was a young child, she has been receiving prosthetic legs from the NGO, PUSPADI Bali, so she can be independent and do the activities that she loves.
UNICEF estimates that 90% of children with disabilities in the developing world don’t go to school and they’re denied their basic right to a quality education, setting them up for an extremely tough start in life.
Namiani was an academically promising student at a young age and ignored cultural stigmas that her disability was a curse and that youth with a disability shouldn’t go to school.
Rather, she fought for her rights to have the same level of education as everyone deserves and recently graduated at the top of her class at the Bali Mandara School.
After finishing high school, she wanted to study psychology but plans to do an English major at the Sampoerna University in Jakarta and then wants to return to Bali to build a school for children with disabilities.
“I’m happy to have graduated but I’m also sad to leave my friends at the school and yet I’m looking forward to going to university in Jakarta,” Namiani said.
It is an incredible achievement for a young woman with a disability to graduate from high school, considering globally, they face double discrimination because of their gender and physical or intellectual condition.
In rural Bali, an increasing number of children and their families live far below the poverty line, which exacerbates issues like child marriage and a high percentage of youth who aren’t in school. A child with a disability is less likely to go to school and in Indonesia, many with an intellectual or physical condition hideaway in shame because they can be wrongly treated as an embarrassment.
Namiani’s family truly believed in her and do all they can to support her to succeed in life, including helping her to apply for a scholarship and start her studies at the Bali Mandara School.
Last year, Namiani won the national ‘Essay Kekayaanintelektual’ competition for her piece about creating an organisation that stands for people’s rights.
Seeing her graduate, gives them hope for her future.
“I’m very proud to see her finish school and whatever she does, we’ll always support her,” Namiani’s father I Wayan Suarsa said.
Namiani has been a strong advocate for other youth with disabilities to equally be able to access a quality education so they can have the best start in life.
“Why I want to help people is because education is really important for every single person and they deserve to get it. So, don’t give up as we will gain our successes and try and try again,” Namiani said.
She wanted to study psychology but has now applied to study an English major at the Sampoerna University in Jakarta, and when she finishes, she wants to return to Bali, so she can help her people.
“After university, I am planning to go back to where I am from and build a school for children with disabilities,” she said.
For all who know Namiani, they see a bright future ahead of her.
“I have seen Namiani always care about her fellow students and her dreams to be successful are really big. I believe she can be helpful not only for herself, not only for her family and surroundings, but also for the country and the nation,” Bali Mandara School Principal Drs. I Nyoman Darta, M.Pd. said.
Namiani plans to start university within the next year.