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Little sight for the blind in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 8 – Thursday marks World Sight Day but even as the day is celebrated; visually impaired students in Kenya continue to lack basic educational materials like Braille machines, according to the Kenya Society for the Blind.

Executive Director Juliana Kivasu said on Thursday that the government should raise its allocation for children with special needs in the free education programme because they required expensive devices for learning.

“They require a Braille machine which costs approximately Sh45,000, Braille materials and other equipment to make them compete with other sighted students on an equal platform,” Ms Kivasu said in an interview with Capital News.

“You find that when you go to a school it may have 10 visually impaired students but only one Braille machine which is way below the required standards,” she said.

Ms Kivasu said currently, a blind student gets an allocation of Sh4,000 from the government annually out of the required Sh18,000.

She said there was also need for training more teachers to support visual impaired students.

“We have been carrying out capacity empowerment for teachers. This year we have had two sessions where about 250 teachers have acquired the skills to support these children,” she said.

“But I don’t think we have enough skilled teachers for this need because you find some schools with visually impaired students have only one teacher trained to support them,” she added.

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The society works in 57 districts across the country where they say they are working with about 1,653 blind students and another 1,417 on home-based programme waiting to join school. However Ms Kivasu said this was not an exhaustive figure because of cultural barriers where some communities believe any form of disability is a curse.

She said this had barred them from reaching some children who required assistance in education.

“In addition to that, we are currently embracing the approach of inclusive education whereby we have students with visual impairment going to the same schools the other students are going because we believe that interaction with the sighted students gives them motivation,” she said. 

This year’s event will be marked under the theme “eye health and equal access care”.

Ms Kivasu said the day gave an opportunity to the persons with visual impairment to share their experiences and challenges they face.

She said the national event would be held on Friday in Nanyuki and would be a culmination of a week’s activity of sensitisation and awareness creation.

“We have been having many activities and the main idea is to create awareness on the situation and the support that persons with visual impairment require in terms of eye care rehabilitation and education,” she said.

World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness, visual impairment and rehabilitation of the visually impaired.

According to the World Health Organisation, visual impairment is most prevalent in men and women 50 years and older globally.

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WHO states that while the majority of eye conditions for this age group, such as cataract can be easily treated, in some parts of the world there is still the need to ensure that women and men receive eye care services on an equal basis.

The day is also the main advocacy event for the prevention of blindness and for "Vision 2020: The Right to Sight", a global effort to prevent blindness created by WHO and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.


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