Brothers in Hindi-medium school struggle for textbooks, study material in Braille

The National Association for the Blind (NAB) provides study material to visually impaired students in regular schools; they have it ready in Marathi and English, but are working for the first time on Hindi books

Siblings Dinesh (14) and Brijesh Saroj (15), have had very little to rejoice about in life so when their parents decided to move from Allahabad to Mumbai earlier this year, they had every reason to celebrate.

Brijesh and Dinesh (in T shirt) have moved from Allahabad to Mumbai and need textbooks in Hindi
Brijesh and Dinesh (in T shirt) have moved from Allahabad to Mumbai and need textbooks in Hindi

Born without sight, both brothers have been eager to join a new school and make new friends. But while their admission was approved into a regular Hindi-medium school in Dharavi, these boys are still waiting for textbooks and other study material in Braille for their subjects in Std IX.

The reason? While the Maharashtra State Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) offers a series of concessions to students who are visually impaired, very little seems to be done in terms of helping them with study material, as well as providing appropriately trained teachers.

At present, the National Association for the Blind (NAB) provides study material as well as additional help to schools by sending teachers to train visually impaired children in using Braillers (Braille typewriters), as well as teach them the syllabus and help them develop additional skills.

“We already have textbooks for Std IX and X students in English and Marathi in place, but this is the first time that students from a regular school have sought help for textbooks in Hindi, and we are working on it.

They have already been given textbooks for a couple of subjects and will receive the remaining soon,” said Raman Shankar, director of NAB, India. He added that the study materials, including textbooks in Braille, books printed in large print (for partially blind), as well as audio CDs are available at nominal rates for students through the NAB.

More educators
The problem, however, lies in the fact that while procuring the study material is still achievable, finding the right educators to teach students who are visually impaired is still a daunting task.

Regular schools, which are currently catering to visually impaired students, are facing difficulty in teaching as well as assessing the students’ work. “While the NAB provides us with teaching material, our teachers are not trained in Braille. We have to wait for a resource person to visit the school and help these children.

Even for examinations, we have to find a writer for students because parents are not literate enough to understand this problem. We are at a loss,” said Veena Donwalkar, principal of Chhatrapati Shivaji Vidyalaya in Dharavi.

The school authorities claim they have been doing everything they can to help the Saroj brothers with the help of NAB representatives. The boys’ father is a tailor and their mother is a housewife.

At present, there are about 250 visually impaired students studying in state board schools in Mumbai, and NAB provides study material as well as teachers for these students. But with only 17-odd resource teachers working with them, it becomes difficult to reach out to all students on a regular basis.

“We send our teachers to schools and ensure that they visit at least once or twice every week. But with very little financial help coming from the government or the state board, it is becoming difficult to retain these teachers because we can’t pay them very well,” added Raman Shankar.

He also highlighted the need for more teachers in regular schools to be trained to teach a student who is visually impaired. “This will help students receive education in its true sense and aid the schools as well,” he added.

Official speak
When mid-day spoke to Govind Nandeede, director of Maharashtra State Council of Educational Research and Training (MSCERT), he said that the department is yet to have any books designed specifically for visually impaired. “There are many NGOs which provide the study material as of now. But we will definitely find a way to fill this loophole,” he said.

Devanagari script for Braille
Similar Braille conventions are used for three languages in India and Nepal that are written in Devanagari script: Standard Hindi, Marathi, and Nepali. They are part of a family of related Braille alphabets known as Bharati Braille.

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