Lesotho literacy for young visually impaired persons
An early grade student learning how to use a Braille device in Lesotho
CRS implemented the Lesotho Literacy for Young Visually Impaired Persons project in collaboration with the Lesotho Ministry of Education and Training (MOET). The project began in February 2015, and implementation in classrooms began in September 2015. CRS worked with teachers in two intervention schools, a national school that specifically served students in Grades 1 and 2 who have low vision or who are blind, and the neighbouring mainstream primary school that served students in Grades 3–7, with the goal of improving students’ early grade reading skills.
The project provided innovative technologies for braille production and translation, as well as teacher training on how to use the technologies.
CRS introduced two technologies through the project to improve the early grade reading skills of students who have low vision or are blind: the Mountbatten Pro Brailler (MB Pro) and the Jot-a-Dot portable brailler (JAD). The MB Pro, used by the teachers, features an ergonomic braille keyboard, memory, speech feedback, and the ability to translate from braille to print and print to braille. The braille to print/print to braille feature aids in teaching students who have low vision or are blind, especially for teachers who may not be literate in braille. The JAD, used by the students, facilitates braille learning through a six-key braille entry system.
The project reached 30 Grades 1-3 primary school students who have low vision or are blind in a Lesotho urban area.
Enablers / Barriers:
The current education system in Lesotho does not cater for the needs of persons with disabilities. School infrastructure is often not accessible to people with physical and visual impairments, for instance classrooms may still need to be accessed via stairs rather than ramps. The medium of communication used in schools may exclude learners who are deaf or visually impaired due to a lack of teachers with Braille and Sign Language skills. However, the most important barrier for disabled learners is the discriminatory attitudes within their local communities and the education sector, which lead many learners with disabilities to drop out of school and miss out on formal education.
Because the project used a Training of Trainers type model, in which teachers received direct training and were responsible for helping students incorporate the new technologies into the classroom, high FOI (Freedom Of Information) and technology adoption would have been necessary to make it really effective. The project faced significant challenges, including delays in implementation and in the production of the Teacher Resource Guide and curriculum materials. Many teachers showed slow uptake of the new technologies, and there were considerable technical challenges with the MB Pros. If the project was given a longer implementation timeline, it is possible that some of the challenges with technology adoption could have been mitigated; and maybe some of the time constraints that resulted in lack of adoption by the teachers at the primary school could have been addressed.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Lesotho Ministry of Education and Training (MOET)
Training, Project report
Braille, Training of Trainers, blind and low vision students