ICEVI Africa invited African countries to the first of a series of webinars on the education of learners with visual impairment.
The 1st Online Session titled “COVID-19 And The Education of Learners with Visual Impairment in Africa” was taking place on Friday 10th July 2020.
The Session Panellists were:
1. Mrs. Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame: President, ICEVI Africa, Ghana
2. Dr. Praveena Sukhraj-Ely: First Vice President, ICEVI Global and Director: National Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, South Africa
3. Fred Haga: Director, Directorate of Special Needs Education, Ministry of Education, Kenya.
The webinar started at 13h00 by Zoom.
Martin welcomed everybody, but especially representatives from schools. By closing the schools of Africa, because of the COVID19 Virus, 500 million learners are involved. It is significant: 60 Programs are on line available, but every child does not have the facilities to make use of it. For learners with disabilities it is even more difficult, because these programs are not adapted.
Gertrude: ICEVI is a global organisation. This organisation includes all facilities of Education of Blind, partially sighted and learners with additional disabilities to visually impairment. This organisation was founded in 1952. The mission of ICEVI is to promote inclusion for all visually impaired learners in mainstream schools. This organisation forms a network between teachers, academics, practitioners and users. That includes local members and international members. ICEVI deals for example with problems of COVID19 in the education, visually impaired girls who are not allowed to go to school. In some countries internet is available, but not for the whole day. Many countries are helped by ICEVI to help them to put learning methods in place for Visually impaired learners.
Praveena: We cannot have stressed the problem enough. Many countries did not have the chance to prepare themselves for the Corona Virus. African countries were blessed. They had time to plan medically and educationally. To give learners with disabilities quality education is never a plain field. Covid19 widened the gap between quality education for normal learners and learners with disabilities. The lockdown in different countries was to protect the vulnerable and not to overload our medical facilities. It was also to protect our families and learners and accentuates their human rights. The lockdown was necessary and viable in this time. Schools have been closed. In Kenia schools will only be opening in January. It will depend on how the Covid19 progresses. In South Africa G7 and 12 went back to school. We have 22 special schools. The social distancing is being monitored in schools and hostels. A big problem is the over crowding of hostels before the outbreak of the Virus. The sharing of assistive devices is also a problem. Most of the countries do not have a plan for learners at home. They do not have access to the curriculum at home. The families of these learners are not trained to help these learners. The families do not have the necessary support. We can also look at poverty and nutrition. Nutrition is not a problem, if these learners are at school. At least in the hostels they have 3 hot meals a day. We as countries need to get together. We need to identify the responsibilities and reach long term solutions. We need to bridge these gaps during the Covid period. Guidelines can be formed to help.
Fred: Fred works in the Education for Special Needs in Nairobi. He is dealing with inclusive education of learners, their health and safety. The government of Kenia deals with the education, but they must also keep the health of learners in mind. To keep these two issues in mind together, is not so easy. Which is the most important? Learners at home need 3 platforms: Radio, TV and online learning. Many of these learners come from families where there is nothing to eat. They do not come from only one village. They are scattered all over the country. If we think of social distancing: Many learners cannot move independently, not even at home.
Praveena: Many platforms of ICEVI are focussing on Africa
at this stage. We are in the forefront with policies and capacity. We are one
of the continents which are included. ICEVI: Sharing information, resources,
experts, partners and members. Much information is on the website of ICEVI. In
Africa many workshops will be held online and training will be done like wise. We need long term solutions.
Gertrude: Organisations will have to work together to share information.
Fred: To share tips from Kenia. When schools were closed in Kenia. A committee was formed. How best to move forward? Key stakeholders were brought together. Parents, professional organisations, agencies and employers of teachers. Guidelines were put together before schools had to start again. Schools will open in January and universities from September in a phased process. Visually impaired learners will not be left behind. Interaction in schools must be minimized. Where there is not running water at schools, drums of clean water will be provided.
Nobody must be left behind and knowledge must be shared.
Compiled by Susan Bam
For more information:
Chairperson: Blind SA Education and ECD Committee
Tel: 079 871 6628