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Blind lecturer exceeds expectations yet again by mastering online teaching

THROUGHOUT his life, Thavasothy S. Mailvaganam Pillai, who was born blind, has not only been meeting expectations but exceeding them.

The lecturer at a private college had to adapt to online teaching and learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic and movement control order. 

“I had to learn how to use an online teaching and learning platform fast during the first MCO last year.

“I have two adult children, who are doctors, who helped me, ” said Thavasothy who has a BA from Universiti Malaya and MEd from Australia. 

The 69-year-old, who retired as a history teacher from SMK (P) Taman Petaling, said his late father, who was an engineer with Keretapi Tanah Melayu, was his biggest supporter.

“My dad would return from work and help me with homework as well as read to me since there were very few Braille books back then.

“During major school exams, my dad and mum would come to school with a lunch box and help me revise during the break.

“Upon my dad’s retirement, he would sit by my side and read aloud from reference books during my varsity days.

“When I became a teacher, he assisted me by reading out students’ responses and also helped to mark their homework, ” he said.

His father always told him to be independent, said Thavasothy, who now teaches Malaysian Studies.

He said his blindness was never an obstacle during his teaching days in secondary school and always strove to make the History lessons fun.

He would relate history to current incidents and impart life lessons while teaching.

Another method Thavasothy adopted was to change the tone of his voice while narrating a story to keep his students engaged.

Upon retirement from government service, he was still keen to teach and applied for jobs.

“I did not state that I was blind because I wanted to be given an opportunity to at least attend interviews.

“I was called for an interview at a college and was hired after the second interview.

“I came to know that one of my former students, who enjoyed my lessons during her schooling days, had put in a good word.

“Now I have to make sure I am tech savvy and able to teach well online, ” he added.

Thavasothy, who was known to his students in secondary school as just Mr Thava, said he was looking forward to returning to college.

“Nothing can replace the personal interaction and feedback which is only possible in a physical classroom setting, ” he said.