New Curriculum disenfranchises visually impaired

By Opio Jackson

Close your eyes and imagine you are a teacher and have been provided a text book that is not in braille form.

Rejaf School of Blind in Juba is facing numerous challenges since the new curriculum came into effect. The Ministry of Education and General Instruction described the new curriculum as inclusive. Unfortunately it falls short of providing teaching materials for the blind and dumb.

“As a blind teacher, I am facing big challenges in using this new syllabus. The text books given to us by the Ministry of Education are in print instead of braille system,” said Joyce Charles, a teacher at Rejaf School of Blind.  

She said it was hard for them to use the text books because they cannot see. “I always need to look for someone to read it for me so that I can transcribe it before going to the class”, she said.

Joyce, who is now in her 30s and pursuing a degree course at the University of Juba said she became blind in 1999.

“I think the rights of visually impaired were not represented during the process of developing of this new syllabus. We were not involved by the national ministry of education and we learned about the new curriculum when the text books was brought to us at the school,” she complained.

A part from the logistic challenges, Joyce said their rights to feeding are being violated. She said the children do not have school feeding program like in other public schools.

Joyce said this is discrimination against the visually impaired by the government and the partners providing feeding in the school for children.

“Our pupils have nothing to eat during lunch and yet their colleagues in other school are receiving meals during lunch,” she said. 

“The children at the blind school were supposed to benefit from the same feeding programme like any other children,” Joyce added.

In 2012 President Salva Kiir donated buses for transporting children to school but the school of visually impaired were not considered.

“It is very hard for the children to come to school since the Centre does not have school bus for transporting them,” Joyce complained.

She called for more public awareness on rights of people with disabilities, saying some parents think it is a waste of time to educate their visually impaired children.

“I am getting only 1500 ssp per month, we are doing this work not because of money, imagine I live in Munuki and how much do you think I spend for transport in a month?” Joyce said.

“The challenges I am facing are the same challenges being faced by my children but I hope that things will be better because these children need to be helped,” Joyce added.

Kornelio Wani Ladu, Head Teacher of Rejaf Centre for the Blind said many people in the society think they are not important in the society.

He said despite being the only school for the blind in the whole country, Rejaf Centre does not receive even a single budget from the national government to run the Centre.

“Sometimes we write to the State Minister of Education for financial assistance. It is just a request because the ministry does not have our needs in their budget,” Wani said.

“There is no transport for both learners and the teachers to transport them to school and back home,” he added.

Wani complained that the new syllabus was another big challenge facing the teachers at the Centre, saying the books were sent to them by the Minister of Education without being transcribed into braille.

He said this is a big task because being a teacher you cannot go to the class without preparing because you cannot see what is written in the book and you need to get someone with sight who can read it for you.

The Head Teacher pinpointed that people with disability were facing several discriminations in the country, stressing that with the current peace they hope government activities will improve.

According to the bill of rights set by the leaders of Council of Schools and Services for the Blind (COSB) and the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), children have the right to receive school materials that are accessible, in the preferred format and at the same time as their sighted peers. Children have an absolute right to testing procedures and instruments that are fair and accessible, that take into consideration the results of the functional vision evaluation, and include all accommodations identified in the IEP.

Scopus Lubang Director for Curriculum in the national Ministry of General Education and Instruction admitted the challenges facing the visually impaired in regard to the new syllabus.

He said although the new curriculum includes all the disable, blind and dumb, it still lacks teaching materials.

“It is in the frame work but we have not yet developed teaching materials in braille and sign forms to be used in teaching the young ones,” Lubang said.

He argued that this is one of the biggest problems in the ministry stemming from financial constraints.

 “If the money was available you could easily hire experts from either Uganda or Kenya to come and develop these materials but that step is still pending”, he added.

Augustino Wodu, Secretary General for South Sudan people with visually impaired said every human being is entitled to fundamental human rights regardless of their status.

He said they were supposed to be given this syllabus in the language that they are able to understand. “It was supposed to be put in braille system and sign language. This is our right and it has been violated by the ministry of education,” Wodu said.      

 “We often experience human rights violation right form our own families to the society where we live,” he said.

Wodu said it was only after the formation of the Disabled Persons Organization that they came to realize that their rights were being violated.

He called on the government to ratify the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities so that they can claim their rights.

“Our rights should be respected and by doing so that means persons with disability should fully participate in the society both politically, economically and socially,” Wodu said.

He said most of them who graduated from the Universities were just being confined to teaching at the school of visually impaired.

“Discrimination in employment is one of the violations of human rights, for instance one of our members who successfully passed a job interview at the judiciary but when the person followed up he was rejected,” Wodu said.

Medina Kiden who works for Disable Action Groups (DAG) in Yei River County has called on the new government to establish schools for people with special needs.

Rejaf School of the Blind is the only school that provides education to the visually impaired in the country. At the school the children are also taught how to use white cane.

She said the dumb and visually impaired children should been given equal rights like other children in the country.

“The parents of those school going children with visually impairment should report any discrimination against their children at school,” she said.

She hailed both national and international and Non-Governmental Organizations that have been supporting people living with disability in Yei River County.

 According to South Sudan transitional constitution education is a right for every citizen and level of government shall provide education to all children. 

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