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ICT supporting the educational needs of blind, rural Ethiopian youths

26-10-2005 (Addis Ababa)
ICT supporting the educational needs of blind, rural Ethiopian youths
Students demonstrating their ICT skills
© UNESCO
The Boarding School for the Blind in Wolaito Soddo, a small rural town in Ethiopia, has now doubled its ICT capacity within the framework of a UNESCO project aimed at integrating ICT into the school’s learning programme.
The equipment-handing over ceremony held last week at the Wolaito Soddo Boarding School for the Blind (WSBSB) was attended by over 200 persons including staff and students of the school, community members, journalist, as well as representatives from governmental ministries for capacity building, UNESCO, ITU, and the Adaptive Technology Center for the Blind (ATCB).

During the ceremony seven computers equipped with adaptive software supporting Amharic – an official language of Ethiopia - and two flatbed scanners were presented to the school by UNESCO, ITU and ATCB. This donation more than doubles the installed ICT capacity at the school and will extend the ongoing UNESCO pilot project integrating ICT into the school’s learning programme.

In the first phase of the project ICT equipment adapted to the needs of visually impaired persons was donated to the school. The first phase also had a training of trainer component in which five blind teachers from the school participated and received computer skills which enabled them to operate various peripheral devices such embossers a specialized printers for producing Braille output and scanners.

According to Ato Endeshaw, Director of the Wolaito Soddo School for the Blind, the first phase of the project has already had positive impacts on his school. The acquisition of ICT skills and equipment has raised staff morale and empowered them to independently produce educational material in Braille that they are using in their classrooms. Teachers have also been passing these skills on to students.

The additional equipment donation will expand the role and contribution of ICT to the learning environment and allow all staff and students to gain ICT skills. Given the shortage of educational materials available for blind students in Ethiopia, the ability to self-produce these resources is an exciting opportunity for the school. The Amharic Text To Speech (TTS) adaptive software it is hoped will also foster the use and production of local and multilingual electronic content. Other schools in the area have also expressed been observing these developments with interest and are seeking to partner with the WSBSB to benefit from these resources. Over time through cooperation and exchanges with institutions in Ethiopia and surrounding countries it is expected that the experiences and knowledge gained in this project could be shared and replicated.

While the introduction of ICT has been welcomed and is already showing tangible returns the longer term sustainability of the project remains a challenge. In response, a small committee is being drawn from the school, community and ATCB and local government to anticipate training, maintenance and others needs and to raise funds or in-kind support from community and external sources.

The Wolaito Soddo Boarding School for the Blind currently has a current enrollment of 152 students ranging in age from 4 to 17 years old. It is located in Wolaito Soddo a small rural town approximately 500 km south of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. The school is supported through the combined financial assistance of the Ethiopian National Association of the Blind (ENAB), faith-based, governmental and other donations. This is in turn supplemented by revenues generated from activities such as coffee, vegetable and milk production at the school in which students participate.
Related themes/countries

      · Ethiopia: News Archive 2005
      · People with disabilities and ICT: News Archives 2005
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