Gujarat: Fully blind, this 15 year-old has fought all odds to study maths

Manasvi Unadkat scored 86% in Class 10 maths – full of symbols and diagrams – without Braille books.

Manasvi Unadkat (Centre) with her maths tutor Sahil Vekariya (Right) of Vidyakul (Image: Vidyakul)Manasvi Unadkat (Centre) with her maths tutor Sahil Vekariya (Right) of Vidyakul (Image: Vidyakul)

Atul Krishna | June 23, 2023 | 01:54 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Manasvi Unadkat from Keshod in Gujarat, does not learn maths the way most students do. The 15-year-old, who is completely blind, relies on online audio lectures, visualising them, and then doing all the calculations and steps in her mind. All maths is mental maths for her.

This remarkable memory and visualisation helped Unadkat continue to study her favourite subject while many visually-impaired students are forced to drop maths which is heavy on symbols, graphs and diagrams – all visual inputs. She even scored 86% in maths in the Gujarat Board Class 10 results, along with an impressive 94.93% overall in GSEB 10th result 2023.

Learning maths for visually-impaired children is very difficult. Braille textbooks are not available as maths is not a theoretical subject. Due to this, visually-impaired children are often discouraged from pursuing maths.

But Unadkat, who said she is immensely fond of calculations, was not to be deterred. Now in Class 11, she has continued with maths.

Losing vision

Manasvi Unadkat was only eight years old when she started losing vision following a complex brain surgery. Till then, she had complete vision, something that helps her study even now.

She also depends on her father, Pankaj Bhai Unadkat, a provision-store owner and her mother, Pushpaben Unadkat, a homemaker. When Unadkat started losing her eyesight, her mother would travel with her from Keshod to Junagadh to help her learn Braille.

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But even this was not going to help her with maths. What did was her determination and her mother’s smartphone.

“When I was in Class 3 I had vision. When I started having the problem, there was some initial difficulty in learning maths. But I learned to understand concepts from listening to the lectures at the school. When I had any doubts, I consulted teachers in school. I used the speech option in the smartphone to check calculations. My mobile will read out all the PDF notes so it is easy for me to revise,” said Unadkat.

She also used YouTube lectures for understanding key concepts.

Maths classes online

In Class 9, a state government scheme supplied her a smartphone. This was also the time she came across the Vidyakul, a vernacular e-learning portal, while looking for videos on Class 9 maths concepts. The platform provides online lectures in vernacular languages such as Hindi, Gujarat, Marathi, among others.

“I heard a few lectures by Vidyakul and it was easy to understand for me. I then contacted the Vidyakul teacher. They said I could join the lectures. I used to understand the lectures in schools but I could not revise them. Vidyakul lectures were easy for me to understand and I could replay them. And if I had any doubts I could contact the teacher. My entire Class 10 preparation was done on Vidyakul,” said Unadkat.

Unadkat insists that she doesn’t forget any steps as she revises entire lectures at least three-four times by listening to them over and over again. She also has a cousin help her revise.

Taking Unadkat as a special case, Vidyakul provided all lectures for free.

Visualising maths steps

“I have never experienced something like this where a visually impaired student had scored such good marks by just listening to lectures. For the rest of the subjects, she had Braille textbooks. When she called me for the lectures, I asked her if she would be able to remember and follow the lectures. Even I had many questions. Then, she told me that maths is her favourite subject and that she listens to the lectures four or five times. Then she memorises the steps. She used to tell me that she visualised the steps in her mind, similar to how we write it down,” said Sahil Vekariya, maths tutor at Vidyakul.

In Class 10, students had to learn mathematical concepts such as trigonometry, probability, statistics and quadrilateral equations. Vekariya said that Unadkat showed a keen understanding of all and was able to solve problems from previous years’ question papers as well.

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“Since she used to have vision earlier till Classes 5 and 6, she has seen most things. So, when I’m teaching probability and I say dice, she knew what a dice was so it was easy for her to visualise. If she had any doubts she would WhatsApp them to me and I’ll call back with the solutions,” said Vekariya. Vidyakul has also vowed to support Unadkat by providing their lectures for free throughout her school years.

Vekariya said that Vidyakul had 45-50 minute lectures on each topic which amounted to over 120 videos for just Class 10. According to Vekariya, Unadkat had listened to all the lectures at least 4 times.

Unadkat is currently in Class 11 at GD Vachhani Kanya Vidyalaya in Keshod. As she is unable to do practicals which are necessary for science, Unadkat chose commerce with maths. She hopes to study commerce in a Junagadh college.

“The school is 2-3 km from my home and my mother drops me off and then picks me up in an autorickshaw,” she said. “I want to do BCom and then I want to crack the UPSC and become an IAS officer. I haven’t thought much of what I will do once I achieve this but this is my goal. ”

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