Those who see the world with eyes can say easily how wonderful it is. But those who have no sight realise it with their heart. Whose feelings are stronger? Maybe, that is a matter of debate, though the strength of realisation is universal. When visually impaired people realise the world is wonderful, they try to survive here, facing all sorts of challenges. Their dream is not different from others’. Only difference is, they have some special needs. And it is our responsibility to fulfil their needs so that they can live as a perfect human being in the society.
Education is necessary for all. And basic education is compulsory; the state ensures this education. Bangladesh is trying to ensure education for all by 2015. When we say ‘education for all’, do we really think for all? Our experience does not allow it. At least, this is not applicable for visually impaired students. We have already said that they have special needs. When we see they are not getting what they really need how can we say we are really thinking for all? Every year the government distributes books for free among the students of primary and secondary schools. But visually impaired students do not get their books. Though, maybe the government can claim that they also provide Braille books for visually impaired students. But according to recent media report, visually impaired students did not get book though six months of the year have passed. They passed more than half of the academic year without books!
There are five especial schools for visually impaired, hearing impaired and intellectually disabled students in divisional cities and 64 integrated schools in each district under the department of social welfare. Among these, the report says, though 28 schools have got the Braille books for primary level without mathematics and religious studies, they did not get any book for secondary level. And the non-government schools do not get any books for primary or secondary.
According to the report, our education ministry has distributed a set of book in each 30 schools of visually impaired students of Dhaka city, and they also provided primary books for 28 schools. But is it enough? When most of the students are out of this service, how can we say government provides materials for visually impaired students?
A study conducted by Child Sight Foundation (CSF) shows that there are 40,000 children who are visually impaired in our country. We do not know how many of them are going to school. We also do not know about their family background. CSF says that a part of them are from poor family. But it is not hard to say that many of them drop out of school and are deprived of education. There are many reasons behind the scenario. It is true that we have failed to provide them enough facilities to ensure education, movement, socialisation and so on. Maybe in many cases, the families are reluctant to send them to school.
Despite having these problems, many visually impaired children enrol in schools. They attend their class regularly. Their own struggle, family support and many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also inspiration for them. It is true that Braille books are somewhat costly and many families cannot afford it. Here governmental and non-governmental assistance is needed.
A child who goes to school needs books at first. Visually impaired students need Braille books. If we can provide these Braille books in time, they will be able to continue their study. We think our government can successfully provide these Braille books to them. National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) has brought a total of 104 new books for primary- and secondary-level schools and that is the main reason for the delay. On the other hand, many schools are not registered to the directorate of social welfare or the directorate did not get demand of books earlier.
However, the academic session of this year is going to be completed. We think the government will take it seriously for the next year. We do not know about their preparation of Braille books, but our expectation is high. We hope the experienced administration will not disappoint us. If there is any inadequacy, they should overcome it within next months of this year. The government also can work in cooperation with others. We expect, like other students, the visually impaired students will also celebrate the textbook festival, in the very first day of the next academic year of 2014.