For HEAD Nepal it is very important to include the parents of the blind and partially sighted children in decisions about the project development. Therefore, parents meetings are organized regularly to discuss the progress of students and decide on new plans. The last meeting was held on August 15th 2011 in the HEAD Nepal office in Simikot. This day it was raining heavily, this meant several hours of walk in the rain for many of the parents. Their decision to participate in the meeting under those circumstances tells a lot about their commitment to the education of their visually impaired children.
In the first part of the meeting, the director, Chhitup Lama, and the teacher, Lokraj Shahi, talked about the progress of the students and the parents had the chance to give feedback about the work of the Mobile Blind School. The volunteer of HEAD Nepal encouraged the parents to challenge their children to become as independent as possible. Later, the parents discussed their contribution to the planned residential program where their children would receive a more intensive training. In a lively discussion it was decided that the parents would contribute food to the program. They will bring vegetables and other required food items to the center. After tea and biscuits the meeting was closed and the parents got on their way through the rain on a long walk back to their villages.
The HEAD Nepal Blind School will be a residential program to equip blind and partially sighted children with the necessary tools for successful integration into a mainstream school. The target group of the project are
blind and partially sighted children aged 3 to 15 years. For young children the program is a preparation for mainstream education. For children who are already in school it is a supplementary course to provide them with more effective methods for their studies.
The curriculum is focused on the following areas:
– Braille literacy in different languages (Nepali, English and Tibetan)
– Mobility training: independent movement with the use of the white cane
– Daily living skills such as personal hygiene and some housework
– Computer literacy with the use of screen reading software
– Self confidence and communication training to accept the disability and respond to challenges and discrimination.
After one to two years of intensive training, the students will return to their home communities and integrate themselves into the regular schools using knowledge and methods acquired during the program at the HEAD Nepal Blind School.
Compared to the first experience of a mobile blind school, a residential program will be more effective for the following reasons:
– The teacher can concentrate on the preparation and implementation of classes, as he doesn’t have to travel several hours per day anymore to visit the villages
– Classes take place on a daily basis
– The residential setting ensures continued practice, e.g. of daily living skills, even outside the classroom
– The regular contact with other visually impaired children shows the students that they are not alone with their problems and they can build their confidence together
– Integration of older children in nearby schools can be easily supported.
Imagine you live in a place where there are no streets. The footpath in the village is covered with stones, mud and water. Not to forget the holes and steep slopes on or next to the way. Most people live from farming, though this is very difficult due to the mountainous landscape.
Are you still with me?
Now try to imagine that you cannot see well or you are even totally blind. How would you move around on the roads full of obstacles and surprises? And what would you eat if you were not able to do farming? The only way is to get a good education and to find alternative means of income.
But the challenges continue. At school you are not able to read what is written on the blackboard or use textbooks. Friends laugh at you because you cannot do your homework or bump into obstacles.
What to do?
The HEAD Nepal Blind School brings the solution. Blind and partially sighted children learn methods for effective studies, such as Braille. They also learn how to move safely in a remote area like Humla with the use of a white cane. They practice daily living skills to be independent at home and they learn to be confident so that they can respond to challenges and discrimination.