Sierra Leone (SL) is one of the poorest countries in the world, with over 50% of the population living in multidimensional poverty. Unfortunately, children with disabilities in SL are often denied their right to education. Many families keep their children out of school and when children with disabilities are enrolled in school, they often face complex barriers; negative attitudes amongst teachers and parents, a lack of resources and specialist teachers, huge class sizes, the child’s disability or poor healthcare and structural barriers all compound to make the reality of a local inclusive education for most children with disabilities unlikely.
In SL people have poor regard for those who are visually impaired, they are seen as a burden and in some cases a curse. In schools, some students also think blindness is catching, making the life of a visually impaired child incredibly isolating; leaving them on the fringes of society. There are also few dedicated schools in SL for special needs, which is one of the major causes for affected individuals remaining trapped in poverty.
Children with disabilities face multiple forms of discrimination, leading to their exclusion from school and their communities. This means adolescents with disabilities are far less likely than those without disabilities to have attained even minimal literacy.
What we are doing
Literacy is one of the most essential and basic skills for anyone to acquire and without it many of the other activities of life are made much more difficult. Having a basic level of literacy will also make learning any subject easier by being able to read texts or instructional material. A reading skill, however small, can be put to so many uses, whatever the range of other abilities a person may have. Being able to read will improve their feeling of inclusion and be a first step to achieve their full potential. This applies especially to those who have a visual impairment. Literacy will provide them with a better understanding of language, improve employment opportunities, develop the ability to communicate between people and prevent isolation.
The primary focus of this project is to improve the quality of life of children in Sierra Leone who are blind or visually impaired. Through the use of adaptive technology, we will provide children the with opportunity to live without poverty, improve well-being and educational opportunities.
1. Creation of an informatics course using adaptive technology for visually impaired children; which can be upscaled to other subjects, schools and countries.
2. Provide special needs students with an equal opportunity to gain basic literacy and computer skills; breaking a barrier posed by disability, marginalisation to help overcome poverty.
3. Provide the freedom of learning, through the use of audiobooks and reading material in digital format; which will provide enhanced learning, deliver basic skills and knowledge to attend further education.
4. Increased opportunities for economic empowerment through employability and income generation
The Bombali School for the Blind was established in 1993 to teach visually impaired pupils in accordance with the national education curriculum for self-reliance. Its mission is to provide free primary school education with boarding, and to support students in second and tertiary levels to complete their studies. The school accepts only pupils who are visually impaired, with the aim of enabling them to participate in education as fully as possible.
Sustain for Life’s project builds on our extensive experience of working with schools for the blind in Uganda and Sierra Leone, providing Adaptive Technology equipment and training teachers to use it in their education provision, under the expert guidance of Dr Cristian Bernareggi. This project with Bombali School is a roll-out of the successful pilot project completed in 2019 at Milton Margai School in Freetown. It is designed to equip visually impaired pupils with computer skills and the knowledge to use email, the internet and a range of software independently, as well as providing audiobooks to expand the range of learning materials available to them.