"Providing tools for living and learning for blind young people in Africa"
In 1995 mail began arriving daily in Radstock from Central and Southern Africa. Originally they were all brailled letters, often sent to multiple destinations, asking for help in the form of learning materials. Three of the lads who wrote then have made remarkable progress using equipment sent to them from Blindaid Africa and have remained in regular contact. Later letters, which follow, are all written by these young men using typewriters donated by members of the public in England.
1. Zambia ...
Hakasenke Mwiinga, now a qualified primary school teacher wrote ...
“.........Words cannot express my gratitude for the parcels you have been sending me. I am highly benefiting academically from the equipment received. Thank you so much. It is indeed a blessing to have someone like you in my life. You are so good and kind, you listen to my cries, comfort and make me smile. You have emblessed and polished me, a destitute. You are my mother, you are my best friend. I always pray for you as a gift. This is my best and only way of showing appreciation.
Well, my course is two years long. We will close for three months on the 2nd. of December after the first level final examinations. If I pass, I will be posted to one of the schools in the country for some teaching practice as the next and last level of my course. I am looking forward to completing.
I was interested to hear about your family in Europe, and the two brothers in Australia. . . Please give them my heart-felt regards. I wish you happiness.”
2. Zimbabwe ...
On the occasion of a Benefit Concert performed for Blindaid Africa in 2004, Lloyd Mudee wrote on behalf of himself and three friends who have completed a three year course at the Jairos Jiri Vocational Training Centre ...
“ To the entertainers and the public ... We hereby write to you today to express our sincere gratitude for the help that Blindaid Africa offers to us as blind people. We have greatly benefited from the services of the organisation in the field of education.
Among some of the items we have received are radio-cassette players, typewriters, and tapes. We thank you for the concert you have offered to perform in the cause of blind African people. We appreciate your kindness and concern for the blind.
To the members of the public we express our thanks and appreciate your generosity in support of the work that Blindaid Africa does. Lastly, we take this chance to wish you all a pleasant evening on the night of the concert, and much prosperity in all your future endeavours. We hope you continue with the great cause for the blind, specifically, our education. May God richly bless you all. ...”
Latim Matenje, Dip.Ed., a graduate from the Domasi College of Education is now a qualified secondary school teacher.
For the past eight years Latim, who became blind at the age of five, and whose family abandoned him long ago, has been supporting himself by working for Blindaid as our Resource Manager in Malawi. He has dedicated his life to the well-being of fellow blind Africans, and his work is invaluable to us. He wrote ...
“This paper is my concrete proof of thanks, appreciation and encouragement to all of you who labour in the fundraising for the operations of Blindaid Africa to continue. It is a serious duty, I strongly believe, for those who are the academic products of Blindaid, to tell the world what it really is, in essence, to an ordinarily needy blind student. I feel very proud and privileged to tell my personal story in relation to Blindaid Africa.
They called, or named me Latim after my birth. I had a businessman father, who made and sold clothes. My mother was a housewife. My father died in 1995 when I was fifteen. Everything we had was taken away by his relatives, leaving us with zero economic power. Although they did promise to ensure that I had a good quality education, my paternal uncles soon abandoned their vows. I believe this was because of the high cost of education here(especially as there is little effort made by the government to improve special education, because of the prevailing traditional understanding of a blind person as useless.) Most importantly, my uncles did not want to see a descendant of my father being as outstandingly successful, financially, as he had been.
My request to Sight Savers International, for a writing frame, was turned down, but this still marked a turning point in my hopeless life. I came to know Mrs. Rosalie Lees, and therefore her work, Blindaid Africa.
Her help saw me recovering hope, giving me an academic competitive spirit and an exemplary courageous approach to the challenging situations that every Malawian blind student faces.
Radio-cassette recorders gave me the chance to record more notes which would have been left due to lack of braille paper. Tapes with English grammar, historical facts, the works of William Shakespeare reached me. As well as many novels. They not only made me perform better in class, but also rekindled my curiosity to know as much as I could in life. Besides that, many sighted students brought me more notes and books to be read for recording simply because they could see the advantage of a mutually balanced relationship with me. They could listen to my tapes. Blindaid also made me one of the earliest blind Malawians to know how to type, because of sending me the required machine.
I therefore excelled in my secondary education, not only as an intelligent, hard-working student, but also as the pride of Chayamba Secondary School where I left a permanent challenge to all blind students who are tempted to give up the fight for tertiary education. Kennedy Kamunga and I, both beneficiaries of Blindaid Africa, were the first blind students from Chayamba, to pass the Malawi School Certificate examination, after a dry spell of five solid years since it opened its doors to special education. My bright performance was sufficient to allow me to pursue tertiary education.
I, however, faced two problems. My results were released later than normal; they said my examination papers were missing at the Malawi National Examinations Board, which delayed my struggle for university enrolment. My uncles were absolutely against seeing me going any further than secondary education.
Never-the-less, Mrs. Lees had by now become my mother, being responsible not only for my learning resources and clothes, but for my home and education, ---- everything. Due to non-provision for the blind in colleges and the university in Malawi, I abandoned my long-time ambition of studying law. I went instead, to Domasi College of Education, to start a secondary school teaching course in Linguistics and History, which I have now completed.
During the past five years I have also seen Blindaid helping the Malingunde Primary School which has had more than ten blind students passing on to secondary education; this is a school which had only produced six successful blind students between 1972 and 1995. Lilongwe Girls’ Secondary school, Chayamba, Lulwe Residential Primary School, Nkope Primary School, Mgabu Secondary School, Salima Primary School, Nsialudzi Primary School, Blantyre Secondary School, Domasi College of Education as well as some private individuals have also received substantial help. With the emerging partnership with the National Library Service of Malawi, Blindaid Africa will be able to reach the remaining schools and colleges. Thus there will be a high demand on it for aid. I also know of its help to Zambian and Zimbabwean blind students.
Today I can safely claim to have become a secondary school teacher, from a helpless citizen of this country. Today, I have been turned by circumstances into someone who can inspire many blind African people. Being told about their problems, I can encourage them never to stop fighting for their betterment. Today, the parents of visually impaired and blind children come to ask me about the best ways to make their children prosper in education. Today, I can speak for my blind fellows in this country, a necessary battle for a permanent change in people’s attitude towards the blind. However, it is impossible for this to be achieved unless there are more literate and educated blind people. Hence the need for the work of Blindaid Africa to continue.
There is, therefore, a more indirect and permanent impact of Blindaid on the African continent than its immediate results can physically show. Amama Rosalie has the task of making available to you, the words written by a stricken and hopeless Latim in his Poem “We are Too Feeble To Live” and in the book “Secret Light of the World of Darkness”. These are my great proof of what it means to change an African blind young man or woman from a NOBODY into a SOMEBODY”
This is why I have countless reasons to thank everyone who gives a helping hand to Blindaid Africa. God bless you.
Latim Matenje, October 2004