CBC Health Services improves access to inclusive education for learners with visual impairment in Lycee Classique, Bafoussam
Digital technology has great control on today’s 21st Century every work day life. Governments and education stakeholders consciously, must restructure education policies that will empower and include students with disabilities.
People living with different forms of disabilities are often sidelined and not given the opportunity to explore their talents, thus are left behind and seen as burden to their families and communities.
Conscious of this, the Empowerment Disability Inclusive Development (EDID) program of the CBC Health Services has created a center for computer learning for students with visual impairment in Lycée Classique de Bafoussan, Cameroon. This is thanks to support from Het Lot der Blinden through the Lilliane Foundation. The project, “Quality Education for All which aims at fostering inclusive education, is a first of its kind in the French sub system of education in the country.
Boyo Maurine, Project Officer of the Quality Education for All project, EDID program says the provision of assistive devices like computers and an embosser under this project is to empower visually impaired students with computer skills that will help them be better included in communities after school.
Mourine further notes that the computers are equipped with assistive devices and customized software that help the visually impaired to work and surf the internet with little or no challenge.
“The computers have programs like JAWS, NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access), Screen reader, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Adaptable keyboards and other software that help students navigate the computer independently. The JAWS program translates the text and icons on the computer to speech to the hearing of the visually impaired. The Screen reader reads other forms of text to braille”, she adds.
It is a new and exciting experience to the students. Lowe Pani, a student with visual impairment tells me that “these computers will enable us study and grasp knowledge with ease. This brings relief to us. I am forever thankful to the Lilliane Foundation Programme that we can now use the computer like other mates.
“Today an illiterate is not someone who has not gone to school, but the one who doesn’t know how to use the computer”, said Lowe TLE E1student.
Dabou Emanuel, Discipline Master, and Simo Lysette – Vice Pricipal at Lycée Classique, both lamented the fact that some teachers and other stakeholders are still not intentional in protecting and empowering children living with disabilities. Both focal persons of the project wish everyone is involved in making the lives of persons with disabilities better and inclusive. The school authorities reveal that there are close to 40 students with visual impairment in the school, yet over 80 percent of the teachers do not demonstrate real patience and proper follow up of the students. Most of them do not understand the complexities of braille.
This revelation motivated the project management to organize a 3 day workshop for the entire teaching staff which took place from April 3 – 6, 2019. The workshop revealed that previous laxity of staff was as a result of ignorance. Commenting after the training, a participant said: “I now realize I was the visually impaired person.” I have been armed with skills to teach inclusively. Mrs. Kana Blanche, a mathematics teacher, beaming with her newly acquired skills, says there is no reason any of us should be found wanting anymore as far as including LVI in our respective subjects is concerned. She called on her other colleagues to regularly share their innovative inclusive practices so that nobody is left out. Physical Education teachers came up with very innovative context friendly ways in including LVI in sporting activities.
Greater commitment has been demonstrated after the workshop and presently there is a general consciousness and commitment in the school with regards to disability inclusive support to LVI.
The inclusive computer lab also has an embosser that prints braille, with the help of a braille translator that translates the braille to other languages. This saves the huge time and cost to type and translate exam papers of students who are visually impaired before assessment.
Madame Fondop Anne has 11years experience translating braille in Lycée Classique and CISPAM. “These computers and the embosser (braille printer) are a great rescue to us. Students with visual impairment are always left behind because of the extra time and cost it takes to manually type and translate their papers. This process of translation has kept the fate of many visually impaired students in the hands of the translators, since a bad or wicked translator may interprete the student wrongly. This can be costly to the student’s result”, narrated Madame Fondop.
“The braille printer is effective and gives just what the student wrote. With the presence of these computers, students can type and translate their papers themselves.
It takes about 45minutes to manually type and translate a braille paper. But with these assistive computers and braille printer, it takes just about 10minutes” she revealed.
Fondop Anne is passionate in braille translation; she says braille teachers are very few in Cameroon, and only the passionate ones will settle for the pay package.
Braille printers are not common to find in Cameroon. It is possible to have just one in a whole region. Just recently CBC Health Services has become the sole supplier of braille printers in West and Central Africa, thanks to a partnership deal with the Swedish firm Index Braille.
According to Mrs Agho Glory, EDID Program Manager, the Quality Education for All project was conceived based on the experience of CBCHS in implementing similar inclusive projects in 17 pilot schools in the Northwest region.
“The scope of the project is larger than just provision of ICT materials”. She reiterated. The general aim of the project is to ensure that learners with visual impairment in the West Region have equitable quality education which is currently being realized through many activities like capacity building of the staff; advocacy at both regional and national level, structural adaptation of the school; screening exercises to detect and prevent blindness amongst others.
The initiative has also been extended to some university students. Zama Walters and Mishie Blaise both visually impaired students from the University of Bamenda recently received a laptop each with assistive devices to empower them with computer skills and better carry on their studies.
Madame Bonjawo Dennise, Principal of Lycée Classique de Bafoussam is highly motivated with the works of the CBC Health Services in her school. She and the school administration have pledged full collaboration with the EDID program, but wish governments and other stakeholders give disabilities issues the priority they deserve, as stated in the Sustainable Development Goals.