'I call him Stephen Hawking in the making'
While his wife takes care of the rest of the kids, Faisal has taken the full responsibility of Ashfin.
Ajman - 'Never give up, believe in yourself and face it with a contagious smile- this is the lesson I have learnt from this little third grader.'
Nine-year-old Ashfin has a genetic disorder that has left him 75 per cent handicapped. His father, Faisal Muneer, tells his son is gifted.
"I call him Stephen Hawking in the making because he has topped school since the day he took admission. He is a genius," Faisal told Khaleej Times.
Yet, he had to run from pillar to post to ensure his child gets the education he deserves. Ashfin had to be pulled out of the school after he passed to Grade 3, as his classroom was shifted to the upper floors and the school did not have an elevator. Faisal requested a number of Indian schools in Ajman to make arrangements for his wheelchair-bound son but to no avail.
Talking about the challenges of finding the right school with the right facilities for children with disability, Faisal said: "My son had to sit at home for two months before Woodlem Park School in Ajman opened its doors for us. Not only did they get the elevator installed for Ashfin, but also expedited the whole process for my son."
Since the elevator installation took about two more weeks after the school reopened, Faisal carried his son to the classroom. "The school management helped me out and also pushed the contractor to finish the elevator installation works at the earliest," said a grateful Faisal.
"Never give up, believe in yourself and face it with a contagious smile- this is the lesson I have learnt from this little third grader. Whatever the difficulties may be, he has always been positive and works hard. Stars can't shine without darkness, and Ashfin, for all of us, is a bright star," said Shija Jijo, head of primary section at Woodlem Park School, Ajman.
Ashfin finishes reading his course books about a week after getting them. His interest in studies and grasping power are excellent and he is always ahead of his class in all subjects, according to his teachers.
"Ashfin has accepted his disability and doesn't shy away. He is a very people's person and is very popular among friends. He hopes to become a doctor when he grows up," said Faisal.
'We were shocked'
Faisal Muneer and his wife were shocked and depressed when they were told that their second-born child - Ashfin - had Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) that involves loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and is classified as a motor neuron disease. It affects the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement and weakens muscles over a period of time. "I was told by doctors not to have any more kids as there was 75 per cent chances that the rest of them may have the same problem."
Faisal had two more children and became a big strong family that support each other. "My eldest son is in Grade 8, and after Ashfin, I have two daughters aged one and three. All of them have been trained to love and take care of their brother. My worry about Ashfin has also subsided."
While his wife takes care of the rest of the kids, Faisal has taken the full responsibility of Ashfin from waking him up, bathing and getting him ready for school to taking him to the new school.
"I cannot thank the school authorities enough, especially the Woodlem Park School COO Abdul Gafoor. He readily accepted my child and took necessary actions so that my son could attend regular classes."
Faisal also thanks his workplace management at Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman, especially Iftikhar Hamdani, cluster general manager, for being flexible and letting him go in the afternoon to pick up his son from school and drop him home.