"Providing tools for living and learning for blind young people in Africa"
Five percent of all the blind children in the world are African, and the majority of these live in the poorest countries where there are virtually no special facilities or equipment for the education of the blind. Blindaid Africa has proved that an investment of as little as £25 ($50) per child can make an enormous difference to his or her future .
Some of these youngsters suffer from congenital blindness, but most have succumbed to the effects of preventable childhood diseases. such as measles. Illness in infants is resultant from extreme poverty and its ensuing malnutrition and vitamin deficiency. Health education is lacking, especially in rural areas. .
Blind African children who go to school must usually leave home when they are about nine. Many must travel long distances to attend the comparatively few schools in their country which do have specialist teachers and basic residential facilities for the blind. In both state and church schools, fees are levied for tuition and transport, and this puts a great financial strain on parents, guardians and students. Teachers write and tell us that their extreme poverty affects the blind students’ ability to learn and marginalises them in their school communities.
Many children, blind or sighted, arrive at school knowing only a tribal language. All students must learn to communicate in their national African language, such as Chichewa in Malawi, and in English. The blind students also have to learn braille in order to be able to do any written work.
The schools have minimal or no funding available for the special facilities or equipment that a blind student should have. Basic braille writing frames are scarce and braille paper is often in short supply, so that note-taking becomes difficult. Examinations may be postponed or even cancelled for lack of braille paper, or the examination papers are said to be lost because there are not enough trained people to transcribe and mark them. In spite of these problems, blind African students are highly motivated. They know, and tell us frequentlyand directly, that becoming educated is the only way in which they have any hope of supporting themselves.
For the few who do pass their final school examinations under these conditions, the way ahead is again very difficult. Places in vocational training centres and tertiary education are not readily available, and lack of the required fees and necessary specialised equipment is, again, a great obstacle.
“Education is the only way ahead”