26 Apr 2011

There are None as Blind as Those Who Will Not See.

As you know we started to think about a classroom or classrooms for the blind in Abugida months ago. These classes for the blind were required by the department of education of the Kebele and specifically by the head of education. He told us that he had a big problem with infant blindness in the area and we had no reason not to believe him. Ninety percent of blind people live in the poorest countries of the world and Ethiopia always occupies a place amongst the poorest, with one of the lowest indices for human development. There are 10 000 blind people for every million inhabitants in Ethiopia. The level of literacy amongst the blind in Ethiopia is extremely low. There are only 4 schools for the blind in the whole country: in Mekele (Tigray) and in Sebeta, Sashemene and Bako (Oromia).

  There are no classrooms for the blind in Akaki Kaliti or for many kilometres in any direction. With teachers who know Braille, the blind and students with very poor vision would be able to develop their abilities and learn. In Akaki Kaliti there are 200 000 inhabitants, from whom, based on the national statistics you would think there would be enough blind students to justify the opening of two classrooms, one for smaller children and the other for older children. So, as you know we got to work on this project, above all because the head of education of the Kebele, who is blind himself, told us that it was very much needed.

At the moment we expected to receive the definitive list of blind children, after working for months on the project, accumulating material, contacting with the best teachers specialised in teaching the blind, including Virginia Perez in Argentina, creator of the Braillin Doll who was on the list of people committed to travel to Abugida to start up the classrooms, they told us that they had no blind young children in all of Akaki Kaliti, not one. The head of education of the Kebele went back on everything he told us.

Amazed and with a group of volunteers making and copying educative material for the future blind children of Akaki, we decided to increase the age limit to 16. Yes to 16. They told us that yes they had blind children up to this age in fact they had had blind children in Akaki Mengist School and that 20 had to return to their homes due to lack of space. When they passed us the list, the result was that this also was another fantasy.  According to them and without knowing all the reasons for these absurd lies they told us that there existed neither one blind child nor one with poor eyesight under the age of 16 in the whole of Akaki Kaliti. Of course we don’t believe them, but without the support of the Kebele it’s impossible to get a project started.

However, as Newtonians and loyal followers of his law of conservation of energy, that states that energy is not destroyed but simply changes state we are changing our energy.

During this trip to Ethiopia we visited two of the four schools for blind in the country. The first was Mekele, where blind children attend up until grade eight. We gave them part of the material that we had bought and had been made by our volunteers for the ‘non existent’ blind children of Akaki. We also gave them a donation on behalf of Mediterranea.
The second was Sebeta School for the Blind situated on the Jimma road 20 km west of Addis Ababa. The school has 143 blind students that come from all over Oromia. There are 13 classrooms, 32 teachers and they teach up to grade 8. They are in need of practically everything… the children have no walking sticks for the blind. The director of the school was very friendly and made us aware of their need for educational material, for volunteer teachers to teach Braille to their teachers, many of who don’t know it, also to teach the use of walking sticks. They need everything.

Thus, in Sebeta, we found the appropriate destination for Virginia and Debora, who is also a specialist teacher for the blind, from Argentina and teaching in the same school as Virginia. The school will provide them with free food and lodging, which will help a lot with our collaboration. Mediterranea will arrange for an Ethiocuban to act as translator so that they can work as effectively as possible. Virginia and Debora will spend approximately two months in Sebeta. They will also spend some time in Abugida getting to know the school.

Sebeta forms part of a campus where there is also a technical college and so there is a very young and happy atmosphere. The school touched our hearts. So we have decided it would be good to support it. Support that has started already,
with the donation of teaching and play materials and that will continue with the arrival of the specialist teachers in May who will be loaded with more teaching materials.

We want to reassure all of our volunteers who have helped in making the materials and who have given support, that it has not been in vain, and that everything will be used to good effect and will be much appreciated.

The classroom that was allocated for the blind in Abugida will be converted into another class for the kindergarten, which will allow us to take an additional 14 children, 14 difficult lives that will now be a little easier.

Many things and attitudes are incomprehensible in Ethiopia and this after 5 years of regularly travelling to the country; but we don’t have Duracell batteries in the Bunny anymore we have rechargeable ones; and for this reason we continue fighting because the beneficiaries of our projects deserve it.

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