Education program for visually challenged girls
The mission of Project Prakash Charitable Trust (PPCT) merges science and service. This is accomplished by identifying children with severe visual impairments, providing them with high-quality surgical and non-surgical medical care, undertaking scientific research to understand their post-treatment visual development, and working towards including them in educational and rehabilitative programs.
With financial support from DCM Shriram Industries Limited, New Delhi, PPCT initiated a project, “Education Program for Visually Challenged Girls”, in collaboration with Silver Linings, New Delhi. This is a one-year undertaking, to run from 1 July, 2020 through 30 June, 2021. Silver Linings is a not-for-profit organization working since 2006 towards promoting inclusive education, empowerment of blind girls, and reduction of preventable blindness. Its registered office, which has hostel facility for blind girls, is located at 164 B, Pocket A, Mayur Vihar, Phase 2, New Delhi-110091. The goal of Silver Linings is to transform the lives of girls with visual impairments by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. It envisions the inclusion of blind people into mainstream society at all levels; quality education can enable them to reach their full potential and contribute to the community and the world.
The project we are engaged in focuses on a group of remarkable girls, who were born blind, but then gained sight through surgeries they underwent as part of Project Prakash. Our objective is to help these unique girls receive high-quality education and, thereby, prepare them to be productive members of the sighted world. This project is being implemented in collaboration with Silver Linings. A group of six Project Prakash girlsis being supported by PPCT from 1st July 2020. They are being provided educational development programs while being housed and cared for in a residential hostel along with other visually impaired girls of Silver Linings.
The curriculum being followed in the children’s educational program is designed to impart the knowledge, skills and values that students need to progress towards an independent adult life, as productive and responsible citizens well integrated into mainstream society. Here are a few highlights:
All children are being introduced to English literature through simple poems and stories. Furthermore, they are read English news stories. All of these activities not only help them gain comprehension skills in the language, they also induce usage and thereby better communication abilities. The children are encouraged to create short sentences and speak withaccurate pronunciation amongst themselves and with the teachers. They are also being taught Hindi poems and songs on an ongoing basis. Story telling is also an important part of their daily curriculum, especially from the Panchatantra which additionally has the benefit of helping them imbibe moral and social values and habits.
Children with continuing visual impairment are also being taught English and Hindi Braille. Their listening and other sensory skills are slowly being stimulated with various activities and methods, so that these skills compensate for compromises in vision.Tailor Frame, abacus and other gamified learning aids are helping develop haptic proficiency, as well as hand-eye coordination.Clay modeling is particularly useful and enjoyable for improving the children’s haptic manipulation and sensing skills.
Vocational and life-skills training
Each child has to be trained separately, because they are all at different levels, with different and unique needs, but there are some overarching commonalities. Every student is being taught to use the computer so that they can become independent in reading and writing, and also acquire familiarity with technology that will likely be of critical importance for later job options. Mobility training is given regularly so that the children can become self-reliant and can navigate complex environments safely and efficiently. The children are also participating in sessions on cooking and personality development.
An important component of children’s growth is guidance on the fronts of personal hygiene and sexuality. This is especially important given that as girls with visual challenges, they are at increased risk of abuse. The children are instructed on differentiating between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and how to protect themselves from any unwanted advances that may come from strangers or even acquaintances. The children have been sensitized to these issues and have been reminded to reach out directly to the teaching staff if they ever find themselves in a circumstance that makes them uncomfortable in any way.