By Purbasha Bhattacharjee
Losing her eyesight to retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition that causes the retina to degenerate, did not deter the indomitable spirit of Bertha Gyndykes Dkhar. If anything, it steeled her determination to help in fighting the helplessness a disability brings. Inventor of the braille code in Khasi, one of the major tribal languages of Meghalaya, the 52-year-old Bertha has dedicated her life to educating similarly disabled children from poor families in the region. As the headmistress of Jyoti Sroat School run by the Bethany Society, she educates blind children alongside others blessed with normal vision. The school that has 185 students and is up to Class X, has churned out many success stories. “Having separate schools for the blind is not the answer. We need to accommodate them in regular schools to assimilate them in the mainstream,” says Bertha. After losing her sight, Bertha had to give up studies midway through graduation. In no position to do a permanent job, this undeterred Khasi woman went on to sell jams and pickles to earn her living. In March 2010, Bertha was awarded the Padma Shri for her efforts and her unique model of schooling the visually impaired with the others.
Bertha can be contacted at 0364 – 2222 111