Providing vision  for the blind

Providing vision for the blind

MASERU – A church run school has been providing the leading light for visually impaired Basotho children for decades.
As St Catherine’s High School marks 40 years of providing education for visually impaired children, authorities say much more needs to be done.
The Anglican Church of Lesotho established St Catherine’s High School in Maseru in 1978, and it remains the only secondary education institution offering tuition for the visually impaired children in the country.

Situated about 300 metres from the Royal Palace in Maseru, the school has given hope to dejected and crestfallen visually impaired children from across the country.
The school says hundreds of its products have ended up in tertiary institutions or have learnt vital life lessons.
St Catherine’s mission, says school principal, Atwell Xana, is to address a need among Basotho.
‘‘The need of helping or educating people to have a vision,” he says.

“Since they have nowhere to go after completing their primary education at St Bernadette, the Resource Centre for the Blind, we take them in,’’ he says.
He says although St Catherine’s is a girl’s only school, it makes an exception by taking in visually impaired male learners.
“We believe in inclusive education as a Christian school. By so doing we serve the people of God. Visually impaired people have a right to study and enjoy life like normal-sighted people,’’ says Xana.

At its inception, the school only had three pupils. Hundreds have come through its classrooms over the years.
‘‘We currently have 35 such pupils studying here,’’ Xana says.
He says the school is specialising on the visually impaired.

‘‘We cannot be a jack of all trades and because of the scarcity of resources, we cannot manage to do many things,” he says.
The visually impaired learners attend the same classes as other pupils but they use special machines.
They are also trained to use computers.

“This is the first time that our visually impaired learners are studying using computers. We persuaded the National University of Lesotho to open doors for them and now we have graduates from NUL with certificates from different fields of study and others are overseas furthering their studies.
“Visually impaired people are no longer just ordinary receptionists. Some are lawyers and councillors, while others are teachers,’’ he says with pride.
Lack of resources poses a major challenge for both teachers and pupils.

‘‘They are never sufficient. As the number of pupils increases, the bigger the challenge,’’ he says.
“We need more resources to accommodate all of them as they come from all over the country. Also, we need special computer laboratories and machines designed specifically for visually impaired people. These machines that I am referring to are very expensive, each worth M7 000,” says Xana.
In the meantime, the school soldiers on.

’Mapule Motsopa

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