At St. Lucy’s School for the Blind in Meru Kenya, students are about to be connected to a world far beyond East Africa as the first delivery of assisted computer equipment is on its way to their new computer lab. This marks the first time many of the children will have access to information, people and resources via the Internet.
Assisted technology and inspired learning in Africa
The students will learn to read online, chat, access online services, conduct research and, ultimately integrate technology in their daily learning.
285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide and of these, 90 per cent live in low-income settings. 38 million blind people live in Sub-Saharan Africa, of which 300 000 are children. Being visually impaired covers a wide variety of sight issues, from blindness to lack of usable sight or ‘low vision’. Those that are visually impaired face additional challenges in every-day life as well as their professional pursuits.
In the developed world, where significant investment is made in providing adapted technologies, many visually impaired children have the tools and resources needed to compete in a modern, global job market. Research shows that providing a secure and safe environment for children to learn is key to helping them reach their full potential.
“Children rise to the expectations set for them. If they are taught that they can achieve and are given access to the correct equipment, they will fulfil their potential,” said Sister Judith Khavwendesi, Principal at St Lucy’s School for the Blind.
Training combined with technology plays a powerful role in improving educational outcomes and future sustainable employment opportunities. This is core to values of GE’s sustainability programme, GE Kujenga, which is committed to helping build Africa’s sustainable future.
In July 2014, GE partnered with inABLE, an NGO whose mission is to empower visually impaired students with technology skills that they can use to become employable. Together, GE and inABLE identified St. Lucy’s and saw the potential the students would have if they were better equipped and connected to a world of knowledge and resources.
“One of the pillars of GE’s Kujenga programme, which means ‘build’ in Swahili, is focused on empowering people by building valuable skills and equipping communities with new tools and technology,” said Jay Ireland, GE Africa President and CEO. “This donation to St Lucy’s will help empower local children by providing them with resources and skills to help them reach their potential.”
“We firmly believe in the transformative power that adapted technologies can have on visually impaired children’s lives,” says Irene Mbari-Kirika, executive director inABLE. “Once the world is opened up to these children, they too can learn the skills necessary to participate in today’s modern world. Partnering with GE has given us the financial resources to set up a fantastic assistive technology computer lab and provide computer literacy training skills for all of St Lucy’s students.”
The students will learn to read online, chat, access online services, conduct research and, ultimately integrate technology in their daily learning. In essence, they will learn the skills that sighted children across the world are learning at school.
“It’s amazing to watch how quickly the children learn to navigate the technological world,” said Irene Mbari-Kirika. “We are very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for the children at St Lucy’s.”
Equipping labs with accessible technology offers previously marginalised, visually impaired children a world of online education and resources that will help them acquire skills to reach their potential. Ensuring that students across Sub-Saharan Africa have the same access to information and technology as those in more developed parts of the world will help build a sustainable workforce throughout the continent, spreading GE’s mission of ‘Kujenga’ around the region.
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