Monday, August 21st, 2006
Malappuram (Kerala) – A literacy programme involving Braille has changed the lives of all the 312 blind people in this Kerala town. Having tasted education, they are taking the first steps towards economic independence.
‘I lost my vision two years ago. I was depressed and did not step out of the house for a year. I am happy that I attended the classes, this is the turning point of my life,’ Shoukat Ali, 26, who was earlier a religious teacher, told IANS.
The five-month programme was organised by the Kerala State Literacy Mission and the Malappuram district panchayat.
Abdul Rashid, district head of the mission at Malappuram, told IANS: ‘We conducted a survey and found that 548 people were blind in the 15-50 age group. We held classes in 14 centres from January for those who came.’
Fourteen teachers trained in Braille and 14 volunteers helped implement the scheme. Although the programme got over in June, most students still gather at the centre.
‘We feel that if we sit idle again we might lose our enthusiasm. So we meet and make fancy items like plastic flowers with the help of our teachers,’ said Ali.
Their quality of life has also changed. Each person owns a Braille box, a stylus to write, a white cane as an aid and a radio.
With the first phase being a huge success, the mission and the Malappuram district panchayat have drawn up a second phase that includes a Class 4 certification for these students.
‘The government, the district panchayat and a few voluntary agencies gave Rs.2.2 million for the first phase. The panchayat has set aside Rs.10 lakh (one million) for the next phase,’ said Rashid.
Plans are now being made to help these students earn a living. There is a proposal to convert the 14 centres into units to produce writing chalk, fancy items and electrical choke.
‘This is the best thing to happen to us,’ 28-year-old Bindu told IANS.
But Bindu is both happy and sad.
She is happy because she found at the centre her life partner in Shibu, who is also visually challenged and plays tabla for a troupe.
‘I am sad because I will have to leave my new friends here. I will organise similar classes at Shibu’s home, and do my bit to cheer up people like me,’ she said.