Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ibrahim

In the past I’ve talked a little of the group of people with disabilities with whom I work in the nearby town of Kasoa. At some point in the past year, the group observed that a number of its members were people with vision problems – so these members decided to branch off and form their own organization – the Kasoa Hope for Vision Society. I have been working with this group since its beginning, and we have been trying to acquire local support, things such as assistance towards vision screening expenses, towards an income generation project for the group, towards education related expenses for the younger members, etc. Just prior to leaving for my break in the middle of August, we were able to meet with the Special Education Division of the Ministry of Education. They were extremely helpful and supportive – encouraging us to pursue mainstreaming the children into local government schools. Currently, there’s one school in the country that is being mainstreamed (in regards to blind children), so this is an exciting step. The catch, however, is that, although the government can provide personnel to work with the school and its teachers in the mainstreaming process, it can’t assist with any of the tangible items needed – a Braille machine, Braille paper, etc. I tried to make some connections for these while on break in the U.S., but we’re still working on that. Meanwhile, Saka, the head of the group, made significant progress in working towards mainstreaming during my absence. In my first week back, the woman we had talked to at the Ministry of Education came to the school selected for the mainstreaming process so as to begin working with the school and the blind children. It was exciting to be there for this first visit, and to watch her lead around the school the one blind boy, Ibrahim, who had shown up that day (there are two more blind children who have been identified to join Ibrahim in the mainstreaming process). She introduced him in all the classrooms. She’ll be coming twice a week to instruct the children in Braille, and all the other days the children will be attending the regular classes.

Ibrahim (in white) during second week of being mainstreamed

It’s exciting – we’re actually making a societal change. Children who are ‘different’ are attending classes side by side with others. Some of the fear, the stigma, and the prejudice directed towards individuals who are ‘different’ will be reduced. When the seeing children are older they will remember Ibrahim sitting beside them in school, playing football with them during breaks, taking tests with them during class, and eating lunch with them daily.

The following week I was able to return to the school again, meeting again with the headmaster, the teachers in Ibrahim’s class and the woman from the Ministry – I call her Aunty. (When I arrived I found Aunty in another class instructing the students in some lesson. As she explained it, when she arrived and saw we weren’t yet there she began looking into other classrooms and was fascinated by the topic in this one and decided to see if she could contribute something.) We visited Ibrahim in his class and shortly afterwards he was sent to Aunty to begin learning Braille. It was fascinating to watch this learning process – I’ve never before been exposed to Braille.

Aunty took Ibrahim gradually through the steps for him to become acquainted with this writing and reading process he is about to undertake.

We are still looking for Braille machines, paper and other supplies to work towards successfully mainstreaming the children with vision problems into the local school, however, the process has begun and I look forward to watching it evolve, and to watching Ibrahim and the others begin having their potential tapped into.

2 Comments:

At 2:40 PM, Blogger MJ said...

This is great Steve. I'm amazed at how much you've been able to accomplish since you got back.

 
At 3:51 PM, Blogger p-mami said...

excellent work steve!!! give my best to all at shifsd and to the teachers of the deaf!

 

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