Professional, passionate and dedicated as they are, teachers who have the task of teaching visually impaired children have seldom been given any specialist knowledge or formal training in braille – and most provincial departments of education don’t provide it…
Blind SA’s position is to promote quality education for all learners with visual impairments in South Africa. To achieve this, action has had to be taken. In May 2016, Blind SA started a Braille Training Programme that sees Braille Instructor, Ofentse Manyane, travelling the country.
In each school, teachers are pre-assessed to identify their level of braille. In each case we’ve found that some training was necessary:
“Following pre-assessment, training commences in Grade 1 braille with reading, writing and editing practices, applying other forms of tactile communication, understanding the use and maintenance of handwriting skills, applying forms of communication for deaf-blind persons and using technology in communication.”
To date, training sessions have been held in KZN, Eastern Cape, Free State, the North West Province and Gauteng, reaching 329 teachers at the end of 2016. Looking ahead, our aim is to train 400 teachers in 2017 also furthering
our scope into Mpumalanga and Limpopo respectively.
We’ve received such a positive response from teachers around South Africa that we have now started Grade 2 braille in some provinces.
Says one teacher: “It’s been an amazing opportunity to improve our braille application to help ensure a quality education for pupils. I can already see the difference in students since my training.” Another commented: “I’ve been teaching in a classroom with blind children for five years and prior to this I received no formal training. I learnt on the job. We now understand the learners so much better and they can tell this.”
What outcome will this project have? Beside its obvious impact on the standard of education in our schools, Ofentse also notes: “Teachers now have more confidence in their classrooms, having been equipped with the tools to understand how the blind communicate. For the children? Well, they look up to their teachers and so it is important they know they’re receiving the right methods of braille teaching.”
Children develop academically, socially and emotionally during their school years. We need to make sure teachers understand these children’s needs so that learners are always engaged, included – and continue to thrive.
“ It’s been an amazing opportunity to improve our braille application to help ensure a quality education for pupils. I can already see the difference in students since my training.”