The World at Their Fingertips

Tuesday 1 March 2016

 

Around midday, a group of 23 students gathered around excitedly in a resource room of Namuna Machhindra School, Lalitpur. They were all ready for the launch of pictorial Braille fact books, prepared specially to provide them with choices of reading materials.

These children are among the 33 visually impaired children who study at the Namuna Machhindra School from grades one to ten. They take part in their studies with great gusto, however, they do not have options for reading apart from their text books. To fulfil this gap, Save the Children produced 23 different titles of Braille fact books. The titles, which are based on factual accounts of people, places, animals, things and events, are targeted at visually impaired children from grades one to five.

These books were launched during the event on February 22, when two schoolchildren, ninth grader Lucky and seventh grader Shristi, read the books out aloud to their friends. “As soon as I started reading this book, I became curious to learn more. By the time I reached the end, I knew all about earthquakes!” said Lucky with a happy smile, after he closed his book. Similarly, Shristi explored the ways of travelling on road, as her schoolmates chatted happily about the means of transport.

The event began with a special story reading session, when professional storyteller and writer Yashu Shrestha regaled the students with stories and jokes. After this, he read them one of the fact books, telling them about games played all around the world. The students immediately leaped into the conversation, discussing the various games that they played and enjoyed.

After appreciating their enthusiasm, Delailah Borja, Country Director of Save the Children, Nepal Country Office, said, “This is our attempt to ensure that visually impaired children have a chance to expand their knowledge and enjoyment by reading books outside their curriculum. As children with disabilities are deprived of many services including education, we must ensure that they receive all such services and provide them an opportunity to read for pleasure.”

The 23 titles have been selected from the 80 fact books that were produced with the support of the US Based Bezos Family Foundation. Altogether 2,300 copies of the fact books have been published in Braille in the first phase, and will be disseminated throughout the country in all 97 resource classes in collaboration with Department of Education and Curriculum Development Centers.

Narad Prasad Dhamala, Representative of the Inclusive Education Section under the Ministry of Education, appreciated the venture of producing books for visually impaired children. He said, “I hope that these books reach every single visually impaired child, and also request for greater coordination for production and distribution of such publications.” 

The National Population and Housing Census 2011estimated a total of 513,321 persons with disability in Nepal, 18.5% of who have visual impairment. Many of these are children, who struggle to obtain books in braille to continue their studies. Although a nominal number of audio books are available, there is almost no option for such children who want to read anything other than course books.

Kumar Thapa, Central Chairperson of Nepal Blind Welfare Association, lauded the production of pictorial books in Braille. He said, “The inclusion of pictures in Braille books is a completely new initiative, which will provide a novel learning experience to visually impaired children. We have come a long away from my own childhood, when visually impaired children had nothing to read.”

After reading the books with their own fingers, the students at the event expressed that the joy of self-reading was far more than hearing it aloud from someone else.