Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thousands of blind children lack access to education

Children with low vision in class

Three thousand and two hundred (3200)  blind children in the country do not attend school according to a joint report issued by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and Sight Savers International.
“There is an estimated population of 3200 incurable blind and partially sighted children who are not enrolled at school,” says the report.
It further says that only 222 blind Gambian children attend school who all come from the Greater Banjul Area and its outscirts.
“Children who are blind in the remaining regions (Lower River, Central River and Upper River regions) of the country still do not have access to inclusive education,” the report highlights.
This lack of formal educational opportunities for majority of blind children in the country is due to a number of reasons among which is lack of funding and trained teachers, the report highlights.
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education indicates that inadequately trained teachers is a factor that hinders the education of the blind in normal schools.
“Teachers need to be equipped with skills such as screening, identification and management of children who are blind and low vision as well as using Braille. Teachers who go through the training college only have some basic information on special needs in general and as such are not really prepared to guide blind children in integrated schools”, the report stated.
“Lack of money is the reason why the 3200 children still idle at home, rather than go to school.The Special Needs Unit, government department responsible for blind education, does not have a budget allocated to the education of blind children.
Its ability to train enough teachers on blind education and provide braille machines and printers is limited. The Special Needs Unit often collaborates with organisations that provide some financial support.”
As a result, Sight-Savers International began a project with the provision of over 7 million dalasis to kick start Integrated Education Program from 2007 as part of its collaboration with the Special Needs to teach blind children.
Most of those 222 blind school-going children were funded by this program, while 40 children are being educated at the school run by the blind organisation.
As the project ended in 2011, there is yet another way out in terms of funding the education of the less abled children.
Anna Nancy Mendy, Head of Special Needs Unit says government will sustain the Sight-Savers program, but acknowledged that money will be hard to come by.
She explained that thirty six Government sponsored teachers will graduate in september to be deployed inschools to support the school-going blind children.
she was quick to add that “this number is not enough, as there are 3200 blind children in the country who are not going to school.”
Meanwhile, The Gambia Organisation of the Visually Impaired (GOVI) has recently secured a 4.2 million dalasi project with aim to extend access to primary education to all blind children, says Mr.Muhammad Kora, president of GOVI.
The British Department of International Development funded project is expected to train 150 teachers on braille reading and writing and the provision of braille machines for the blind students.

Source: Nagambia News