"What should your country do to provide good quality school-education to all visually impaired children?"
"Education is a precious jewel,
All should try to read well,
No wealth is greater than knowledge,
So, the world worships knowledge."
Education is an ornament which refines human life.Someone has rightly stated: "knowledge gives politeness, from politeness comes competence.”Man's proper development is not possible without education.While education is essential for all, it is most essential for the disabled, especially the visually impaired.
Education can have different meanings for a sighted and a visually impaired person.According to the Literacy Commission, a person knowing the three R's can be considered literate.These three R’s are: "Reading, writing and arithmetic".This statement may be correct for a sighted person, but literacy has no meaning for the visually impaired, unless he becomes self-reliant --intellectually, physically, mentally and economically, which is very difficult without good quality school-education.
Presently, there are two ideologies regarding good school-education:
- Inclusive education;
- Special education.
Some other important suggestions:
- Inclusive Education:
Under inclusive education, certain schools are identified in each district, where especially trained teachers teach children once or twice during the week, which is not adequate for the all-round development of a visually impaired child, because, initially, greater attention needs to be paid to a visually impaired child, as compared to a sighted child.Besides, inclusive schools lack the necessary and suitable facilities, environment and healthy attitudes, for proper development of the visually impaired child.Therefore, elementary education is not desirable in inclusive schools.
- Special Education:
Visually impaired children should be educated up to 8th grade in schools which have especially trained teachers, sufficient classes, all types of Braille devices such as: Braille slates, Braille books, Braillers and other essential amenities like sports material, etc.Education should necessarily be imparted up to grade 8 in special schools because children obtain basic knowledge of the Braille system and Mathematics in elementary classes and learn Algebra, Geometry and identification of maps from grade 6 onward.This education is possible in special schools alone.
From 9th grade on, visually impaired children should be provided inclusive education.Yet, even here, there are many problems.Visually impaired children are viewed with a strange clinical attitude in inclusive schools.They are often kept separate from other students.Because of inadequateappreciation of the potential of the visually impaired among teachers, they do not pay sufficient attention to them.The classmates of visually impaired children also look at them with feelings of pity.There is a total absence of the required facilities for visually impaired students in these schools.The all-round development of the visually impaired gets impeded, under such adverse circumstances.
The schools concerned with imparting inclusive education to visually impaired children, will have to pay special attention to 3 important points:
- Essential and appropriate facilities;
- Appropriate environment;
- Healthy and co-operative attitude.
In inclusive schools, like other children, visually impaired children should also be taught socially useful skills such as stitching, knitting etc.All this is not possible without a healthy and co-operative attitude.
- Essential and Appropriate Facilities:
In order to teach visually impaired children, the teachers of inclusive schools must be provided minimum basic training, so that they might be able to understand and identify the child's needs and potential.Generally, visually impaired children come from poor families.Therefore, their educational material, like books, typewriters, globes, computers etc.should be made available.
- Appropriate Environment:
Sufficient opportunities should be provided for games and sports in a positive environment for the physical and mental development of visually impaired students.Visually impaired children can easily play various games and sports like races, long jump, shot put, one-legged race, cricket, ludo, chess etc.What is required is proper encouragement.In order to make the mobility of students easier, the structure of the school-building should be such as to prevent the risk of their falling down or getting seriously hurt.What we mean to say is that grills could be placed on places where there is a risk of their falling down.Besides stairs, ramps can also be erected.Thus, through appropriate environment, visually impaired children can be prepared to lead a successful life in society, along with good school-education.
- Healthy and Co-operative Attitude:
Alongside providing inclusive education, teachers and classmates should have a positive attitude toward visually impaired children.Abjuring feelings of pity, attempts should be made to bring out the special capabilities of such children.Along with helping them in their education, they should also be prepared for creative work and participation in all educational and cultural programmes of the school.
It is essential as far as possible, to have an appropriate mix of the Western (inclusive) and the Indian (special education) models to provide good school-education to visually impaired children.Perhaps, it was to underscore this point that D.Ramamani said, "We cannot benefitthe blind by adopting only the Western model." Inclusive education is, certainly,cost-effective from the standpoint of expenses, yet the importance of special schools cannot be ignored, because it is in these schools that a visually impaired child can be imparted adequate knowledge, in an appropriate manner, of Braille, Mathematics, elementary science etc.
In his book, "We, You and Your Children", Lal Advani has written that every child has different needs.Therefore, the number of visually impaired children in the class should be limited, so that the needs and potential of each child may be recognized which will make it easier to turn him into a capable and alert citizen.