"Providing tools for living and learning for blind young people in Africa"
The blind children who were writing asking for help gave their home addresses and it was some time before their residential schools could be identified. The first of these was the Margaretha Hugo School for the Blind, in Masvingo, Zimbabwe, which at that time had an enrolment of 480 blind students. When offered help for his school, the head teacher replied immediately. He told of the desperate plight of his students, outlined ways in which the promised equipment would be used, and drew priorities of the type of help they needed.
“... the majority of our students come from very poor families so that it is difficult for them to pay for boarding, tuition and stationery. Your letter has come to us at just the right time. There are several things that make the process of learning easier, but this equipment is not available to us....”
Mr. Chirewa, writing on 13 February 1998, asked for 50 typewriters, 40 cassette players, 500 blank cassette tapes and as many recorded tapes as possible. This seemed an impossible task, but a commitment was made to meet this request before the end of the current year. An appeal was launched through the Somerset Guardian newspaper for donations of good quality used equipment and collection points were set up in the Norton-Radstock area. The response from the public was amazing. Before the end of the current school term twice the anticipated amount was received and dispatched to Masvingo, where it arrived in November 1998.
Parcels being unpacked in Masvingo.
Mr. Chirewa wrote to acknowledge receipt of this consignment.
“ ... Your efforts are not in vain. With the radio-cassette players you have sent we have established tape libraries for both the primary and secondary schools. Blind students are benefiting a lot. The blank cassettes you sent have all been used to record set books. It was wonderful of you really. Typewriters have enabled us to introduce typing into the primary as well as the secondary school. We have gone even further and registered with the Pitman Examination Board so that our school is registered as a centre for typing for the blind, the first one of its kind. Your determination and kind donations have served as aa real incentive and motivation for us. ... It is as though you give water to a thirsty child ... “
Masvingo students with recorders
Several students from the M. Hugo School have kept in touch. They have passed through the sixth form in various other integrated schools and some have continued on with vocational training, teacher training or university studies. All attribute their achievements to the support of Blindaid Africa. Stephen Ngwani wrote about the success of his friend, Tawanda Mamboto:
“No blind boy before him ever went from the Pakame High School to the University of Zimbabwe”
Many students from the M. Hugo School have since graduated and are working. Serveral with whom we are still in contact are supporting or teaching younger blind students.