Preparatory school for the Blind
Since the population of blind people in the T.A.R. is very widespread, it has been decided to have the blind children boarded in Lhasa and be trained at the centre. From a financial, organisational and logistic perspective it would simply be too complicated to set up an individual training program in the very remote areas. With blind people boarding at the school, training and education can be given much more effectively. Being taken out of their familiar surroundings for a certain period of time, they have to adjust to a new environment. This helps them to accept and learn the techniques for the blind more easily.
Additionally the blind have the opportunity to communicate with other blind people and exchange experiences and the problems they face in their respective home situations. During their one or two years of training, they gain enough self-confidence to cope with daily life independently. The preparatory school for the Blind provides classes and housing for children aged between 5 and 15.
The training for the students lasts for one to two years. First the students receive an intensive training in orientation, mobility and daily living skills (orientation in a room / school compound, walking with a cane, eating with chopsticks and daily hygienic skills) followed by a training in the Tibetan, Chinese, English and mathematical Braille script. In addition to the training of the special techniques for the blind, the students are also taught in basic colloquial Chinese and English language skills.
All students who attend a regular school after a one or two year’s training use schoolbooks which are used in the first four elementary school classes. The goal of the preparatory school is that after completion of the basic training the young students integrate themselves into regular local elementary schools.
Vocational / skills training
The following are professions or skills that the blind and/or partially sighted students can chose to be trained in:
- Tibetan and Chinese medical massage, pulse diagnosis, acupressure: The professions of medical masseur and physiotherapist are within the PR China reserved for the blind and the deaf. Two blind in Chengdu educated medical massage trainers were found who started up this program in the autumn of 2000. In May 2001 , April 2002 and April 2003a blind physiotherapist from Switzerland, Monique Assal, came to Lhasa to train the trainees and one massage btrainer in the basics of physiotherapy.
- Musical training: especially talented blind students are trained by a professional musician in singing, composing and playing musical instruments.
- Animal husbandry: Cows, Horses, Pigs and chickens
- Cheese production: Milk, yoghurt, cheese production (Summer 2004)
- In the cheesefactory several kinds of cheese are produced: (a) Tibetan Mountain Cheese, (b)Lhasarella and (c)- Tibetino in the Flavours naturel, garlic and onion.
- Bakery: Several bread products are being baked ranging from white bread, raisin bread and “twists” and “Rolls”. It is planned to extend the training in pastry products as well.
- Agriculture: Cultivating vegetable and grain. (Summer 2004)
- Handicrafts: Knitting, weaving. (Summer 2004)
- Kitchen management
- Compost production: Students are being trained how to make compost.
- The sales of the all products are also meant to generate income to cover (part of the ) running costs.
- In the centre in Lhasa the students are trained in the use of a computer.
A workshop for the production of educational school materials.
To provide reading and working materials for the students attending the school and the vocational training program, a workshop for the production of Tibetan Braille materials has been established. A computer program to convert written Tibetan into Tibetan Braille has been developed by a German blind mathematician, Eberhard Hahn. Tibetan texts can be typed into a computer through Wylie transliteration, and the program converts this transliteration into Tibetan Braille, which is then printed in Braille. The first Tibetan Braille books were produced in August 2001.
Only shortly after the project started it showed that the impact of the project on the students was a very positive one. Children who came from backgrounds in which they were completely excluded from society discovered that they were not the only ones with a similar fate. The students were able to share their experiences and they were confronted with blind people who were able to perform different tasks and professions.
All students were treated the same. Within days the students grew stronger and also their self confidence increased considerably. In case a student mentioned that he couldn’t do a certain task, the teachers and staff of the project replied telling them that the blind teachers or Sabriye was able to perform the task and they also could not see. Within the project the students showed that their increasing self confidence was a very important step to be able to face the daily society. One day, a few of the students walked in the centre of Lhasa and some Nomads very rudely shouted at them: ”Hey, you blind fools!!”. Kienzen, the oldest of the small group turned around and told the nomad that yes, he is blind but he is not a fool. “I am going to school, I can read and write! Can you do that?”. “I can even read and write in the dark! Can you do that?”The nomads were very astonished and of course they were not able to write because they never visited a school.
They started a conversation and about 6 months later these nomads brought a blind little boy from their region to the project. This small example shows how important it is for the children to know that they are valuable members in society. We want the students not to be embarrassed to be blind, they should see it as a sort of quality. One person has big feet, another hasred hair and some are blind. They should stand up in society and say, “I am blind, so what!?”.
In the Tibetan society it is believed that blindness is a punishment for something done wrong in a previous life. Because of a lot of media attention in the TAR the project is being visited by lots of Tibetan and Chinese people who are curious to see what is going on there. When they are confronted with happy children they wonder how it can be that these children are punished. It is the staff who tells them that these children are not punished but they are challenged for their next life.The visitors seem to be very open for this idea and suddenly they see the blind with some more respect.
Swisttal – 53913 | German
Post Address in Lhasa:
P.O. Box: 01-054, Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region– 850000 | PR China