‘I can feel Sultan’s presence, but wish I could see him’
Aziz Idris

STUDENTS and teachers from PTE Meragang whipped out their smartphones and cameras for a photo opportunity with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam when the ruler visited the school yesterday shortly after a house key presentation ceremony.

However, 18-year-old Mohd Haziq bin Aisha could only “feel” His Majesty and not “see” the monarch as he is visually impaired.

Haziq was born two months premature, blind in his right eye, while he could still see with his left eye. But things turned for the worse one night in 2007 when without any warning or sickness, he lost sight in his left eye leaving him completely blind.

Hjh Sa’adiah Hj Ali, a teacher from the Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education, has been Mohd Haziq’s personal tutor for three years.

Mohd Haziq said finding friends was difficult, as he was different from the other students and people distanced themselves from him. But now he has many friends thanks to encouraging words from his teacher Hjh Sa’adiah Hj Ali.

When His Majesty noticed Mohd Haziq amidst a sea of students, the ruler came up to him and asked about his blindness. Mohd Haziq’s facial expression said it all. He had a genuine smile and answered His Majesty questions.

“His Majesty asked me what subjects I am currently taking and what kind of assistance I receive from the Ministry (of Education),” said Mohd Haziq.

He choked as he described the feeling of talking to His Majesty was surreal. “I can feel his presence, but I wish I could see him,” he said.

Mohd Haziq also told the Bulletin that the first laptop he ever had was sponsored by the government in May 2007, with the JAWS software (screen reader) provided by the Special Education Unit. He also mentioned that the government provides financial assistance.

Currently, he has taken Malay Language, Syariah and English as his chosen subjects and wishes to further his studies wherever the opportunity comes from depending on his ‘A’ levels results.

His parents are his motivation to study and go on with his life. “My parents give me a lot of advice,” he said. “They are always motivating me to keep going, keep studying, and not to think that because I’m blind I can’t do anything. When I went blind a lot of my friends just disappeared, but my family has stood by me all the way.”

According to Hjh Sa’adiah there are currently two students at PTE Meragang who are visually impaired including Mohd Haziq. However, the other student has low vision.

Students with low vision often require text materials in large print or high contrast, which makes it easier to read. - Borneo Bulletin (31 May 2013)