The story of a blind history teacher from Azerbaijan
History teacher Ozal Muradov
“People with physical disabilities have trouble adapting to society because of abuse by society. In Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’, Gregor Samsa turns into a giant insect and is locked in a room by his family to prevent guests from seeing him. Most people with disabilities are in this position.”
28-year-old history teacher Ozal Muradov is blind. He believes that if the state provided equal rights for the disabled, the need for extra benefits would disappear and they would be able to stand on their own feet. Muradov also says that the disabled are more worried about needless compassion than the indifference of society. In his opinion compassion is really needed, but when it is excessive, it separates disabled people from other categories of citizens in society.
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National champion in teacher employment exam
Ozal Muradov was born in Baku and lost his eyesight at age four due to smallpox. He received his secondary education at a specialized school for the blind. In the first grade they were taught only the Braille alphabet, and from in the following grades they began to study subjects.
After graduating from high school he entered the State Pedagogical University as a history teacher. He at last received a master’s degree in history.
In the same year, he scored 51 out of 60 points on the teacher’s employment exam, entitling him to teach history in public high schools. For three years he worked as a history teacher at a rural school in Zenoni, Lerik region, in the south of Azerbaijan. This year he again tested his knowledge in the employment exam and scored 97.5 points out of 100, becoming the national champion. Now he works at secondary school No. 45 in Baku.
“I fell in love with history thanks to Ise Gambar”
Ozal says that he fell in love with history as a child thanks to the chairman of the opposition Musavat party, Ise Gambar, whom he did not know personally.
“He always seemed to me a charismatic person, and the fact that he is a historian also inspired me. The works of Ahmed bey Agaoglu, Mamedamin Rasulzade, Alimardan bey Topchubashev rooted in me the desire to become a historian, and the works of Grigory Petrov “The Land of White Lilies” and “The Ideal Teacher” inspired me to become a teacher. I think that education is necessary to a healthy society. And the core of education is the teacher.“
Not excessive compassion, but appropriate conditions
Ozal says that people with disabilities in Azerbaijan suffer in many areas due to inadequate facilities and low inclusiveness.
“I am depressed by the attitude in society towards people with disabilities. Our main problem is misunderstanding. They think we can’t do anything. As soon as I get on the bus, everyone tries to give me a seat. Every time, I say that the problem is not in my legs, but in my eyes, and this problem does not prevent me from riding a half-hour on my feet.
Another example: why let me go in first in line? Maybe an old or pregnant woman, but being blind doesn’t mean I can’t stand in line.
People in most cases try to help the disabled, that is a good thing. But we are more oppressed by excessive compassion than indifference.”
Ozal says that disabled people do not need benefits, but equal rights and conditions for integration. For example, in order even to be considered for the teaching exam, he had to meet with the Minister of Education and Science Emin Amrullaev.
“In Soviet times the blind, although they did not receive a higher education, were employed. At least they didn’t depend on anyone. If the government gives me a normal salary, I won’t need a disability pension. By issuing this pension, we are told that “we are unable to work”. If they create normal conditions for people with disabilities, there would be no need for additional benefits.”
Family factor is important
Ozal believes that families of those with disabilities have a great role to play in how they build their future based on their own desires.
“I have achieved all my success thanks to my family. During the years of study at school, at the university, at various competitions, they always believed in me. Faith is the basis of all deeds. Because they believed in me, I also believed in myself.
I think if other families find out about me, about my story, they would at least think that their children could also become just as successful on their own.”
Plans for the future
Ozal wants to become useful to all of society. He would like to publish scientific articles in leading publications. He currently posts videos on historical and philosophical topics on TikTok, where he has 21,000 subscribers.
“I don’t believe in sayings like “there is no silver lining”. If I had not been visually impaired, I could have ended up in better places than now. I would read books in PDF format that are not available to me. There is a good chance that I would not be in Azerbaijan now. I’d leave today, but my family are worried. They say you have to get married first.
I would like to become a pilot. Probably would, if not for disability. Now this is impossible. But there are still things I can do. I finished my master’s thesis – “Arab Spring and Western Diplomacy”. I would very much like the state to create conditions for me to travel to Arab countries, work in their archives, and develop my dissertation work. I want to be remembered as a historian.”
History teacher Ozal Muradov