Digital technology has great control on today’s 21st Century every work day life. Governments and education stakeholders consciously, must restructure education policies that will empower and include students with disabilities.
People living with different forms of disabilities are often sidelined and not given the opportunity to explore their talents, thus are left behind and seen as burden to their families, communities.
Conscious of this, the Empowerment Disability Inclusive Development (EDID) program of the CBC Health Services have created a center for computer learning for students with visual impairment in Lycée Classique de Bafoussan, Cameroon. This is thanks to support from the Lillian Foundation in the Netherlands through a project dubbed “Quality Education for All”. The project, which aims at fostering inclusive education, is the first of it kind in the French sub system of education in the country.
Boyo Mourine, Project Officer of the Quality Education for All project, EDID program says the project is improve on the education outcomes of visually impaired students. This she added that the visually impaired are often left behind during class and examination assessments as a result of the time it takes to write and translate the braille.
“For example, it takes a mini second for a sighted student to that. But for a visually impaired student to write letter ‘A’ the child needs to juggle between six dots just to write a single letter:, She said.
Mourine further notes that the computers are equipped with assistive devices and customized software that help the visually impaired to type their notes and prints in the shortest possible time, and surf the internet with little or no challenge.
“The computers have programs like JAWS, NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access), Screen reader, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Adaptable keyboards and other software that help students navigate the computer independently. The JAWS program translates the text and icons on the computer to speech to the hearing of the visually impaired. The Screen reader reads other forms of text to braille”, she adds.
It is a new and exciting experience to the students. Lowe Pani, a student with visual impairment tells me that “these computers will enable us study and grasp knowledge with ease. This brings relief to us. I am forever thankful to the Lillian Foundation Programme that we can now use the computer like other mates.
“Today an illiterate is not someone who has not gone to school, but the one who doesn’t know how to use the computer”, said Lowe TLE E1student.
Dabou Emanuel, Discipline Master, and Simo Lyssete – Vice Pricipal at Lycée Classique, both lamented the fact that some teachers and other stake holders are still not intentional in protecting and empowering children living with disabilities. Both focal persons of the project wish everyone is involved in making the lives of persons with disabilities better and inclusive.
The school authorities reveal that there are close to 40 students with visual impairment in the school, yet over 80 percent of the teachers do not demonstrate real patience and proper follow up of the students. Most of them do not understand braille.
However, the inclusive computer lab also has an embosser that prints the braille, with the help of a braille translator that translates the braille to other languages. This save the huge time and cost to type and translate exam papers of students who are visually impaired before assessment.
Madame Fondop Anne has 11years experience translating braille in Lycée Classique and CISPAM. “These computers and the embosser (braille printer) are a great rescue to us. Students with visual impairment are always left behind because of the extra time and cost it takes to manually type and translate their papers.
This process of translation has kept the fate of many visually impaired students in the hands of the translators, since a bad or wicked translator may interpret the student wrongly. This can be costly to the student’s result”, regrets Madame Fondop.
“The braille printer is effective and gives just what the student wrote. With the presence of these computers, students can type and translate their papers themselves.
It takes about 45minutes to manually type and translate a braille paper. But with these assistive computers and braille printer, it takes just about 10minutes” she revealed.
Fondop Anne is passionate in braille translation; she says braille teachers are very few in Cameroon, and only the passionate ones will settle for the pay package.
Braille printers are not common to find in Cameroon. It is possible to have just one in a whole region. Just recently CBC Health Services has become the sole supplier of braille printers in West and Central Africa, thanks to a partnership deal with the Swedish firm Index Braille.
EDID Program Manager, Mrs Agho Glory, says the Services for Persons with disabilities at CBC Health Services is currently running inclusive programs in 17 pilot schools in the North West Region of Cameroon.
She adds that similar projects have been established in Government Bilingual High School (GBHS) Bamenda, CBC Integrated Braille Center, Baptist Comprehensive High School Nkwen-Bamenda, and others.
The project has also been extended to some university students. Zama Walters and Mishie Blaise both visually impaired students from the University of Bamenda recently received a laptop each with assistive devices to empower them with computer skills and better carry on their studies.
Madame Bonjao Lennis. Principal of Lycée Classique de Bafoussam is highly motivated with the works of the CBC Health Services in her school. She and the school administration have pledged full collaboration with the EDID program, but wish governments and other stakeholders give disabilities issues the priority they deserve, as stated in the Sustainable Development Goals