Polio patient strives to eradicate debilitating disease

Sultan has established a school for differently-abled children in Shareefpura in Multan district


Owais Qarni June 25, 2019
The total enrolment at the school is 200, out of which 30 students have polio. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

MULTAN: Despite suffering from a debilitating disease like polio, 28-year-old Babar Sultan has dedicated his life to serving differently-abled children. His efforts have been recognised by the district administration which he has regularly assisted in polio drives.

“After searching relentlessly for a job and remaining unsuccessful, I decided to open a school for children around three years ago,” he says. I never wanted another child to face the same difficulties I had encountered while trying to acquire an education, he expresses.

Sultan’s school is located near his home in Shareefpura in Multan district. The total enrolment is 200, out of which 30 students have polio. He says that his mother, who stood by him through thick and thin, was the only support he had in his mission to spread education.

Amna Khatoon, Sultan’s mother, describes her son as an ambitious person who stays motivated and focused, helping others overcome difficulties. “Sultan used to travel hundreds of miles with a non-government organisation (NGO) to collect charity for the school,” she says.

Sultan explains that he initially opened the institute for differently-abled children to instil qualities such as confidence and independence among those living with polio. “Only somebody affected with polio can understand the pain of others suffering from the disease,” he maintains.

It can take a huge toll on a person when society looks upon you with pity. Sometimes people misbehave and insult you for being crippled, he says. “I want to protect these children from internalising these insults,” he states.

The biggest misconception about the polio vaccine is that people think it can cause harm to their children. “Because of these prevalent misconceptions, my parents made the mistake of not having me vaccinated. Therefore, I appeal to everyone to not repeat the mistake my parents made and to have their children regularly vaccinated,” he expresses.

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The children at Sultan’s school consider the man a father figure. Eight-year-old Hamid says, “Sir tells me that I am not disabled. He tells me that I can achieve anything I can dream of by educating myself,” he says.

In addition to the work Sultan does with the school, he has also lent a hand in assisting the district administration in anti-polio campaigns that are regularly carried out in the district. He clarifies that his motive for doing so is not to obtain any monetary compensation, but to create awareness among the people.

The school owner explains that anti-polio campaigns are carried out every month. During these drives, Sultan cooperates with teams from the health department and the district government so that other people can see the debilitating aftermath of refusing the vaccine up close.

Multan Health Department DHO Dr Zafar Abbas voiced his appreciation for Sultan’s efforts to create awareness. He persuades parents to have their children inoculated for the disease. “He is a role model for all those who think their disability is an obstacle in achieving their goals and dreams,” he maintains.

He reveals that in the most recent polio campaign, which concluded in the district on Saturday, 851,987 children under five-years-old were immunised against the disease, while the target was 896,828. He adds that around 95% of the target was achieved with 2,240 polio teams and 37 mobile teams.

The remaining 44,000 children who were missed will be vaccinated in the follow-up campaign, he adds.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2019.

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