South Africa – Bona UbuntuThe Nkosinathi foundation is a wonderful example of a small, super enthusiastic organisation at the centre of society that, among others, wants to prepare children with a visual impairment to go to school. But where there is simply a lack of specialist knowledge to take steps in that direction. Which was the reason for Visio International to enter into cooperation with the organisation in Port Elisabeth in 2017, to take those steps together.
By law, South Africa is doing great for people with a visual impairment. Children can go to regular education. In fact: that is actively promoted. But there is a big gap between paper and practice.
One of the bottlenecks for example, is that children on average are not examined for visual impairment before the age of 6; partly because there is a lack of knowledge to recognise that limitation at an earlier stage. As a result, children with an enormous disadvantage enrol in education. If they enrol at all. Because often parents leave their children at home ‘for the sake of convenience’.
In short: the periphery is available, but the consciousness not just yet. That is where the focus of the programme lies. And hence the name: Bona Ubuntu. Bona means ‘see’. Ubuntu is a term from South African philosophy that, among other things, stands for sharing and living in harmony.
More children in education
Ensure that children with a visual impairment - and their parents - receive professional guidance from an early age, so that they can start education at the right age. That was the first assignment the foundation actively started working on in 2017.
Visio experts have given trainings in early childhood development for children with a visual impairment. Professionals learn how to deal with young children with a visual impairment. Also the field workers in the communities - the feelers of the organisation in the neighbourhoods - have taken this training.
That this education clearly had an effect is evident from, among other things, the fact that the children's group of the foundation subsequently grew, both in number of young students and in the quality of care. An extra children's group has even been established in one of the communities.
Members of similar organisations and employees of the Department of Healthcare embrace the ambition to help more children getting from underneath the radar. They support or follow the low vision training courses that Visio will soon start. As a result, support to actively work on tracing, investigating and offering early chilhood support to children with visual impairments is growing widely.
Parents are actively involved in the project
Parents of children with a visual impairment started the Bona Ubuntu Bag project: they make bags together. They improve the social-economic situation of their family and generate attention for the programme.
What is the challenge in South Africa in years to come?
The hoped-for impact long-term is to make partially sighted and blind children aware of their possibilities. That they realise that they can fully participate in society, that they can lead an independent and dignified life and that they have equal opportunities in school, at work and in society. To achieve this, the programme wants to identify, assess and provide support to more children with a visual impairment, to suit their specific care and needs.
By activating field workers, parents, teachers and people from the government, the first step in that direction was taken. The challenge for the following years will mainly be to spread the awareness even faster. And to ensure that stakeholders in (pre-school) education and healthcare find each other and start working together.