Being blind in Zimbabwe in a global digital age

There are approximately 100, 000 visually disabled people in Zimbabwe.  Who caters for them when it comes to education?

According to RelZim.org, there is somebody out there who is constantly thinking about delivering technology-based solutions to boosting the culture of reading and general literacy for the visually impaired Zimbabweans. Speaking to the full hall of Zimbabwe International Book Fair indaba at Crowne Plaza Monomotapa in Harare last week, a Dominican nun Sr. Catherine Jackson, director of of the Braille library, and Ms. Nozipho Khanda a young Zimbabwean woman, who is blind from birth, explained howthey print Braille books that the Ministry of Education  distributes all around the country.

“These books come in set of volumes and you have to be a superman in order to carry all your books around with you. So you have to know exactly which volume you need for which lesson at which time,” painted the picture Sr. Jackson. “When Nozipho came into form one at the [Dominican] convent we asked for reading books for her from Britain. And the first book they send was Charles Dickens Great Expectations in 24 volumes. And I am so proud of Nozipho Khanda because

she finished that book in a couple of weeks. Because we encouraged her reading culture she got new books every week. She has a reading culture and she speaks six languages. She has a degree from Melbourne University and she is a senior Christian Counsellor and represents the World Blind Union for training courses around Africa.”

Talking about the needs Sr. Catherine, who studied Braille for 12 months in Australia, mentioned a need for typists in MS Word. A Word document is typed in, they have a software that translates it into Braille. Then they print those texts and the books go to schoosl all around Zimbabwe.

The alternative is to put a book on audio. And for this again they are looking for people who can read and are prepared to sit for hours and read some of those very long books.

At the end of the RelZim.org story, you can download some excerpts of the speech by Nozipho Khanda, who will tell you in her perfect British English about, among other things, the challenges she encountered during her recent visit of a technology fair for the visually impaired people in Accra, Ghana.

Sr Catherine Jackson can be reached at 00263 4 251116/7 and srcatherine@zol.co.zw

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