Intelligent Balinese Teen Set to Graduate and Take on the World

Globally, an estimated 90% of children with disabilities in the developing world don’t go to school because they face limiting barriers like discrimination, poverty or living in a remote area.

In their families or communities, a child with a disability going to school can be wrongly seen as a waste because they’re judged on their different physical or intellectual capacities. They’re entrenched attitudes preventing them from reaching their full potential and they have lasting, damaging impacts.

We believe children of all abilities deserve a quality education.

18-year-old Namiani was born with a congenital birth defect and is defying the odds by successively ranking first in her class academically and about to graduate from the Bali Mandara School in Singaraja, North Bali.

Namiani has shown great academic potential since she was young and always strives to go further.

“I like biology and English classes and my dream in the future is I want to be a psychologist. I used to dream about being a doctor, but I think there are a lot of doctors out there but a job as a psychologist is still kind of rare and then I think I want to be that,” Namiani said.

Namiani grew up in poverty in Badung, surrounded by a loving family. Her parents, I Wayan Suarsa, and mother, Ni Ketut Sari, work together to sell products to warungs for income and do all that they can to support Namiani and her two sisters to have an education.

Namiani’s family strongly support her dreams and she motivates her sisters, Ni Wayan Tara (left) and Ni Komang Bintang (right) to do all that they can to succeed in life.

Bali is the world’s top tourism destination, but the inequality gap is widening, forcing more people to live below the poverty line where they can’t afford basic health care, rehabilitation and daily living expenses. Children with disabilities in isolated villages of the island and other parts of Indonesia often hideaway in shame until PUSPADI Bali finds them and provides them with a mobility aid as well as rehabilitation, skills training or other support.

Namiani is one of the 5,206 people in Bali and East Indonesia who have received a mobility aid free-of-charge from PUSPADI Bali, so they can have independence and an improved quality of life.

She’s always had a curious mind, with a fascination for the human mind and body and how we can all do more to defend people’s rights.  Academia and books aside, Namiani loves dancing, swimming and playing a sport, similar to Judo.

Namiani loves doing traditional and contemporary dances as well as swimming and playing judo. She never allows her disability to set her apart from others.

She never allows her disability to set her apart from others. Instead, it has sharpened her empathy when connecting with people and understanding their vulnerabilities, talents, and bringing out the best in each other.

“Many people notice people with disability with only one eye, because mostly, people with a disability have a physical limit and they think that people with disability have many difficulties in doing things practically. But, for me, I never have any major difficulties when I should do my work, so my message is don’t ever notice people with disability with one eye,” Namiani said.

Showing academic promise at a young age, Namiani was determined to be educated so she could be the change she wants to see in the world.

With the help of her father, she applied to study at the Bali Mandara School, which selects children from the poorest backgrounds and provides them with a quality education so they can break out of the cycle of poverty and become future leaders.

Namiani has ranked top of her class academically since she started at the Bali Mandara School in 2015.

Since starting at the Bali Mandara School in 2015, she has successively ranked top of her class each year and will graduate at the end of May, opening a world of opportunities for her.

Aware that other children with disabilities are denied their right to a good education, Namiani encourages youth in Bali to never give up on following their dreams, despite the obstacles.

“I am very proud of my daughter because once she decides to do something, she will do everything she can to do it well,” Namiani’s father Wayan Suarsa said.

Namiani’s dad, I Wayan Suarsa, is incredibly proud of how far his daughter has come and her future dreams.

Last year, she won the national ‘Essay Kekayaanintelektual’ competition for her piece about creating an organisation that stands for people’s rights.

Namiani’s education has given her a powerful voice which she expresses in her writing or dancing and with those around her.

She has so much to say.

“I have never been sad even though I have a disability because when I was growing up, I had been surrounded by people with no disability. For somebody who has a disability, maybe they would be embarrassed or shy but for me, no, because I believe that every single person has their own strength,” Namiani said.

Namiani is a fierce advocate for disability rights and encourages other youth with disabilities to never give up on themselves or their goals.

Namiani is speaking up in a world where people with a disability’s voices are often silenced.

She wanted to study psychology but now plans to apply to study an English Major at the Sampoerna University in Jakarta and then wants to come back to build a school for children with disabilities in Bali. Namiani dreams about her future – like every child should.

“Namiani as far as I know is a really humble student and even though she has a disability, the spirit of hers is really huge,” Bali Mandara School Principal Drs. I Nyoman Darta, M.Pd. said.

Strong women run in Namiani’s family, with her older sister set to graduate from nursing this year and her younger sister is completing her high school studies.