By ORTON KIISHWEKO, 27th December 2011 @ 13:11, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 3558
THE young man mumbled and gestured desperately not sure that his name had been called. He finally responded when his teacher touched his shoulder to signal to him that it was his turn to read out a line in a manual. It was written on Braille paper.
It was Abraham Mcharo, a 16 year old boy at Pongwe Primary School,in Tanga Region who sat in a group joined by others as Grace Benjamin and tens others (all children with special needs).
It is a school for children with special needs, with many of them using Braille text to read and braile paper to type their school work. At the side of their class room, they use a braile machine called a themohomine machine which was donated to the institution by CCBRT and cost US 10,000
Mr Simon Ndeme, the head of department of children with special needs says he has pupils with albinism and those who are blind. His job involves responsibilities as providing direct instruction to blind and visually impaired students in Braille, daily living skills, technology, use of vision and advocacy.
Sometimes they transcribe all classroom print materials into braille using a brailler. He also collaborates with regular education classroom teachers on how to adapt the curriculum and make lessons accessible for his pupils. He says he has the opportunity to teach children who are blind skills that will last a lifetime.
"By teaching the braille, pupils have a greater chance of a level playing field with their peers. I am able to give families hope that their child will have a strong and bright future. I love working directly with the children, especially the little ones! I love teaching Braille." he says.
He says it's an inspiring field but with a shortage of teachers. "People who would like to work in this field should have strong interpersonal skills and believe that blind people can do most anything if equipped with the proper life and job skills," says the teacher.
He notes that currently, there is a critical shortage of teachers of the visually impaired country-wide. "And the shortage will get worse as current few teachers retire," he says.
Speaking to the pupils, they say that when CCBRT started its programmes, it was the first time someone ever spoke to them about HIV/AIDS. They all possess HIV literature written in Braille.
Teachers say that some pupils are older because of the fact that some parents were initially hiding their children and thus not taking them to school. "So after finding them, we just forward placements for them in schools regardless of their age," said the head of the departmemt.
In class 7, there is a type writer for the blind and over 10 blind pupils use them. They use it to write notes, among them, Abdallah Haji, 16, who harbours a dream of becoming the president of Tanzania one day. They are 10 perking brailler machines which were all donated by CCBRT.
Their teacher says that deaf have learnt to compete and succeed in harsh environments where authorities hardly implements policies on the disability, which accords them equal rights in schools, hospitals, colleges or other institutions.
Using their ten index fingers, people with hearing and speech disabilities can weave through even via the most complex of conversations. In some of their activities at the school, they also sing and work out mathematical calculations using sign language.
In interviews with some of them, it is clear that they have shattered barriers and some are seeking leadership positions in various fields. But their teacher broadens the decision to a need to feed more sign language interpreters in more institutions than schools.
"How do doctors attend to deaf people when they do not understand sign language? Isn't it high time the government employed interpreters in hospitals?" asked their teacher.
The electronic media, he says, have also alienated the deaf. "There are no sign language experts in the studios to help the deaf people follow news on television," he charged, adding his association is calling for more schools for the deaf across the country. There are about only 40 schools for the deaf nation-wide.
"We need to establish more modern schools for the deaf in every district because there are many children with hearing disabilities who cannot attend normal schools. He added: "Some schools do not even have deaf teachers while those employed either by government have to endure frequent intimidation, mistreatment especially those who raise issues affecting the deaf pupils."
He said most special teachers including the principals cannot even use sign language fluently yet they are expected to serve deaf pupils. "Some education inspectors assigned to monitor special schools, he said, do not even know Sign Language.
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