First to write SSLC exams using computers in Kerala, Haroon Kareem scores A+

Haroon, who has total visual impairment, plans to apply to Stanford University after class 12 to pursue graduation in computer science.
Haroon Kareem TK
Haroon Kareem TK

Haroon Kareem TK, a 15-year-old visually impaired student in Kerala who had fought with the state government last year to allow him to write exams using computers, has scored an A+ in all subjects in Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) exams. Haroon learnt his results on Tuesday. The teenager had pushed for allowance to write his exams using computers so that he did not have to depend on scribes. And his efforts have now yielded splendid results, which is being celebrated by the state.

Haroon tells TNM that he has received calls from Kerala Legislative Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan, state Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, Child Rights Commission Chairperson KV Manoj Kumar and many MLAs. “I am very excited. They were congratulating me,” says the student of Mankada Government Higher Secondary School in Malappuram. 

Having total visual impairment meant that the Haroon was left out from the regular classroom experience since childhood. It was an isolating experience, and one that he fought hard to overcome, the teenager had told TNM. However, it was his flair for computers and technology led him on a quest to achieve complete freedom in the classroom. 

Over several years, Haroon mastered the use of assistive technology for the visually impaired. With the use of screen reader applications, digital textbook databases, and multiple softwares for reading and writing math and science, he was able to overcome the hurdles he faced in classrooms due to his disability. While his classmates wrote in notebooks, Haroon typed the same on his computer and printed out his answers. Digital textbooks and screen reader apps ensured that he did not have to ask his deskmate to read out chapters. 

In May 2020, after a sustained battle to secure permission from the Kerala Education Department, Haroon finally wrote all 10 papers of his board exams without a scribe and ended up scoring an A+ in everything.

“We now plan to move him to The White School International in Kozhikode, an International Baccalaureate (IB) board school, and one of the best in Kerala. Here, he can pick the subjects that he wants to study in for class 11 and 12. Based on these, he can apply to universities,” says Ram Kamal, Haroon’s mentor, who also runs Chakshumathi, an NGO for print-disabled (those unable to read printed material due to perceptual, physical or visual disability) students. 

“I want to apply to Stanford University to study software engineering. Stanford is recognised globally, and its certification holds value everywhere. Which means, even if I want to become a freelance coder or software developer, I can do so without hurdles,” Haroon shares. 

Stanford is also the alma mater of another Indian student with visual impairment, Kartik Sawhney, who studied artificial intelligence there. Kartik was the first blind student from India to write his exams using assistive technology and to study at Stanford University. 

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