Preethi Srinivasan was the youngest girl to play in the State cricketing team at the age of 8.
Today, she is fighting a battle with the University of Madras, which has refused her admission to its M.Sc Counselling Psychology course through distance education, not once but twice in recent years. The reason? She is differently-abled, due to which the officials think that she will not be able to attend the mandatory five classes before the course begins.
The former cricketer, who captained the Tamil Nadu women’s under-19 team during its only victory in a national tournament in 1997, suffered a spinal cord injury in a beach accident in Puducherry that left her quadriplegic in 1998.
“I applied for the psychology course in 2001, but they said they held contact classes on the third floor and there was no facility for the differently-abled to attend them. My father went to every official and begged them to take me, but they refused.”
Preethi tried getting enrolled in the psychology course offered through correspondence in Bharathiar University and Annamalai University, but was not considered. She then took up a correspondence course in medical sociology in the University of Madras.
Recently, when she approached the university to enrol into the psychology course again, she had to face the same situation.
“They did not even want to look at my past achievements or consider the fact that I was a student here. Why should I not be allowed to study just because I am differently-abled and because they don’t have ramps? I told them I will attend all the contact classes now because I am in better shape now, but they refused to oblige,” she said.
After Preethi’s father, an electrical engineer, died a few years ago, she lives with her mother in Tiruvannamalai now.
“I thought studying psychology will help me connect with students better,” said Preethi, who goes to schools and colleges to talk to students and teachers on the dangers of spinal cord injuries.
“I tell them about how they might never see it coming, but within seconds their life will be reduced to a wheelchair. And because educational institutes do not have the ramps they should have, life will only be more difficult.”
The University of Madras officials said they were looking into the matter, and that they will take steps soon. “We are not aware that she had applied. We have a significant number of differently-abled students studying here and we will surely take the issue with utmost priority,” said an official.