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Botswana – Thuto le Pono Boswa

Education and care are your right; even if you have poor vision or are blind. That is the free translation of the name of the programme in Botswana. Many countries in the world recognise that right. Thank goodness. Botswana does that to and has enshrined that right in its constitution. That is why this name was chosen.
The question that the country is struggling with is: how do you organise inclusive education?
In a country that is comparable in size to France, but where only live 2.5 million people. A country where half of the children with a disability (also) have a visual impairment. Moreover, a country that has many traditional healers, especially in the sparsely populated areas.

Rough start

The wish for inclusive education existed. The people help realise that were available. The contacts between the government and the field were present. The one element mission was structure. As Visio, we therefore first made sure that there is an organisation to take the lead.
That organisation was established in 2017: Thuto le Pono Boswa Foundation.
After various meetings with stakeholders, the first training sessions were given; to a group that included both eye nurses and teachers. They were taught in low vision screening & assessment.
After that training everyone realised: we are not on the right track yet. The impact for children is too small, both on short term and in the long run. Things have to change.

New impulse

Partly based on experiences, started in 2018 the following actions were taken:
  • The organisation has become completely independent, with its own board and direct agreements with the various ministries. It has become the owner of the ambition for inclusive education.
  • A great deal of investment was made into training, resulting in a breakdown into target groups
    • all eye nurses in the country (around 60) have started the same training together
    • low vision screening & assessment is included in the basic eye nurse training
    • social workers and people in neighbourhood care are trained to recognise visual limitations
    • teachers are trained to recognise visual impairments and deal with children with visual impairments in the classroom.
  • Plenty of awareness campaigns are being deployed in schools. The suspicion is that people feel ashamed of poor eyesight, both parents and children. Information can take that feeling away and cause children to rise above the radar.
  • Also, regular nurses receive very specific information about low vision. After all, they are the ones vaccinating the children. If they know what to watch for, they can refer children to an eye nurse.

What is the biggest challenge in Botswana?

Botswana is a big country, with relatively few inhabitants per square kilometre. Specialist care is concentrated in the more densely populated areas. The biggest challenge lies in upgrading that care. That quality improvement in health care must then be reflected in society.

The biggest achievement in Botswana in recent years is the positive mindset, both in the government and in healthcare and education. That has everything to do with the name of the programme: Thuto le Pono Boswa. Education and care are your right; even if you have poor vision or are blind. Everyone is aware of that right …