Article written

  • on 18.11.2015
  • at 02:21 PM
  • by Kimberley Evans

Section 27 report: In South Africa, visually impaired students are left in the dark 0

“Reality says no, but I remain helpful,” says Rivonia School for the Blind student Hlulani Malungani when asked if he feels prepared for the future.

Released this week, Section27’s Left in the Dark investigates the 22 government schools across the country that teach blind and visually impaired learners. Researched and prepared between September 2014 and this August, it finds common threads of failure that violate the students’ basic rights to education, equality and dignity.

“I am pained to say that if the facilities at the school at which I was a pupil had been as paltry as in most of the schools described in the report, I would never even have completed school successfully,” writes former Constitutional Court Justice Zak Jacoob, who became blind when he was 16-months-old, in the forward. He called for the issues to be treated with urgency “and not to let the lives of a whole generation of blind children, mainly African and poor blind children, go to waste”.

Across the 22 schools, the report found students and teachers lack adequate learning material in braille. The department of basic education should have provided every learner with a textbook for every subject, but 17 of the 22 schools said they have never had access to a single braille textbook for Curriculum Assessment Policy Standards (CAPS) subjects.

“It is frustrating because we are left behind and we feel that we do not have enough information because we only have notes. I would like to have all my textbooks in braille,” said Oswold Feris, a grade 12 student in Retlameleng, Northern Cape.

A tender issued in 2012 to produce textbooks in braille attracted no bidders, says the report, as the time frames were too short and the penalties too high. To study, students end up sharing outdated textbooks. The department provides workbooks for Grade R through to Grade 9 students, which are meant to supplement textbooks, but they were also found to be under-supplied at many schools. To help students cope, many of the teachers provide notes in braille, significantly adding to their workload. While 21 of the 22 schools employed at least one totally blind educator, none of the schools interviewed had teacher guides in braille.

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by Greg Nicolson

Photo Credits The Daily Maverick

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