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See Me; Braille Education for 10 Blind Kosovars

by The Ideas Partnership
See Me; Braille Education for 10 Blind Kosovars
See Me; Braille Education for 10 Blind Kosovars
See Me; Braille Education for 10 Blind Kosovars
See Me; Braille Education for 10 Blind Kosovars
See Me; Braille Education for 10 Blind Kosovars
See Me; Braille Education for 10 Blind Kosovars
The children attending the Braille lessons
The children attending the Braille lessons

I walked into the classroom of the Society of the Blind in Gjakova as some students were finding
their seats and others eagerly waiting for the lesson to start. To my surprise, they were no longer
using the six-holed wooden structures which helped them to recognize Braille. Instead, each
student was using a Brailler - a Braille typewriter.

As soon as everyone sat, the braille instructor, Shaip, started dictating and students typed away.
Their little fingers searched for the right button, and once they found it, they used all of their
upper body strength to push it. After writing each sentence, they would reach over and touch the
white paper with braille in it to make sure they had written it correctly. Some of them barely
reached over the machine, but their efforts were rewarded as they reached the end of the sentence
and realized that they wrote it correctly. I marvelled at their dedication, and after taking a few
photos, I prepared to leave.

Instead of leaving the room, I was left speechless by what happened next. As I gathered my stuff,
Besiana noticed that her headband had fallen off, and asked me to help her find it. After handing
it to her, she said “Look, I can do this all by myself now”. With the brightest smile on her face,
Besiana took the headband and put it on without anyone helping her. At the end, she tucked
away some of the hair that had slipped from the headband, and turned to say “See, I did it”.

OK, I thought to myself – here is another story about our amazing Besiana. But this time, there
was another story. After Besiana put her headband on, Sadik said “Look at what I can do” and
got up. I was stunned. When Sadik first started attending these classes, he used crutches and
could barely walk. He has a physical disability that makes it hard for him to balance, and for the
first few weeks, his mum would bring him to classes and stay with him to assist him. Now, he
could get up and walk without crutches and all by himself. His smile as he got up remains stuck
in my head.

I cannot say that there is a correlation between attending Braille classes and gaining the skills
and abilities that Besiana and Sadik have gained. Regardless, I could see how the socialization
that happens in these classes is a motivating factor for them because they get to show off their
new skills.

I left the classroom extremely inspired and happy that TIP is supporting these classes. On my
way home, I passed a pharmacy. I could not help but think “Caution: Learning Braille might
include the following side effect: empowerment”. More than ever, I was grateful to all those who
have donated to make these classes possible. It is the third month of classes, and all expenses
have been covered by your generous donations, so thank you!
And Braille is just one of the skills that these students are learning.

The children are now using Braillers
The children are now using Braillers
Little Besiana adjusting her headband
Little Besiana adjusting her headband
Sadik and teacher Shaip
Sadik and teacher Shaip
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Nine year-old Besiana
Nine year-old Besiana

Besiana is a determined nine year-old girl with dimples. She’s seated at a table burrowing holes in a piece of thick paper with a small sharp tool, using a plastic template to guide her. The activity makes no sense to me but she is purposeful and I watch her curiously, and am joined by her father, Mehmet.

He turns to me, ‘When her sister went to school in the morning, Besiana used to say to me, “why can’t I go to school too?”…’

It’s a good question. Besiana was born blind, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to be at school. However, with no school for blind children in Gjakova she has never had the chance to be in education.

And then you and other generous donors responded to The Ideas Partnership’s campaign to raise money for Braille classes in Gjakova to be run by the town’s Society for the Blind. And since the beginning of this month Besiana has been one of five children learning Braille here three times a week. The plastic template she’s using is one of the tools that her teachers, Xhafer and Shaip (who is blind himself) use to demonstrate to the children how to write in the tactile language whose letters are raised dots.

Mehmet goes on, ‘It makes me so happy that she can go to this school. I don’t have much to give her – I’m unemployed - but I would give anything I could for her. I would give my own eyes for her…’

He’s emotional and we turn back to Besiana burrowing points into the paper. I want to talk to her about her ambitions.

‘What will you do when you’ve learned all the letters?’ I ask.

She frowns and says with a giggle ‘I’ll have a rest.’

Fair enough.

‘And then what do you want to do?’

‘I want to become a teacher,’ she says, with the reverence in her voice of a child who has just had her first weeks of encounters with the profession. ‘I’ll teach children to do their homework – I’ll work with blind children and children who can see.’

With a resolute tilt to her chin she turns over the paper where she’s been creating the bumpy Braille letters, and runs her fingers over the marks she’s made. She’s still at the early stage of the alphabet, but she accurately decodes B and then A and B and A again. She sounds them out, and runs them together.

Mehmet looks up.

‘What did she say?’

‘What word is that, Besiana?’ Shaip prompts her.

But her father is murmuring it under his breath already. ‘She read BABA!’

In Albanian it’s the word for Daddy, and Mehmet and I are both misty-eyed now at the achievement of this enthusiastic learner who – thanks to you – at last has a place to learn to write her father’s name.

The children learning Braille for the first time
The children learning Braille for the first time
Besiana learning the alphabet
Besiana learning the alphabet
Besiana reads out loud the word Daddy!
Besiana reads out loud the word Daddy!
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Organization Information

The Ideas Partnership

Location: Prishtina - Kosovo
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @kosovarngo
Project Leader:
elizabeth gowing
Prishtina, Kosovo

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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