Seeing beyond challenges

Two blind trainers build the capacity of educators teaching visually impaired students in Homs

Rasha Alsabbagh
two blind men giving a training
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Aldroubi
03 December 2020

Inside the training venue in Homs stood Yehya, 43, asking his blindfolded trainees to feel the Braille ruler with tactile dots representing numbers, to help them relate to his experience, and that of the students they will teach in turn.

Born with visual impairment, Yehya lost his sight completely by the age of five. For the past 14 years, Yehya has dedicated his life to build the capacity of people with visual impairments, volunteering with the Blind Care Association local NGO in his hometown, Homs.

a blind man holding a braille ruler
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Aldroubi
Yehya, 43, explaining to teachers about the use of the Braille dotted ruler and tools that are helpful for the blind, as part of a UNICEF-supported teacher’s training focused on building the capacity of educators to best communicate with blind and visually impaired children and students in Homs, Syria.

“Growing up, I have experienced first-hand how the limited resources and technology prevent people with disabilities from receiving quality education,” says Yehya, who have always had to exert more effort than his peers while studying.

“I had to constantly stimulate my memory to practice and memorize the information I learn, and I still do that today.”

Through UNICEF-supported workshops held in Homs during November, Yehya has been training teachers to be better able to communicate with their blind and visually impaired students; guiding them to activate their other senses in the learning-teaching process, and providing them with life and communication skills, as well as other teaching strategies, to improve the educational experience of the blind.

a trainer and trainees
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Aldroubi
Yehya, 43, explaining to teachers about the use of the Braille dotted ruler and tools that are helpful for the blind, as part of a UNICEF-supported teacher’s training focused on building the capacity of educators to best communicate with blind and visually impaired children and students in Homs, Syria.
hands of trainees using braille ruler
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Aldroubi
A trainee teacher attempting to use the Braille ruler to experience the way her visually impaired and blind student will use it.

“I wish to spread among educators a culture of effective communication, compassion with and support to students with special abilities,” explains Yehya.

“Each school subject can be properly delivered to children in class if the teacher manages, with a positive attitude, to incorporate the right means alternative to sight,” he adds.

The support of his wife and two children keeps Yehya determined to motivate teachers as well as families of children with disabilities to appreciate these children’s different abilities.

“Fighting void stereotypes about the disabled and blind is a mission I’ve taken on and wish to deliver through my sessions,” he says.

Perceiving obstacles as opportunities has also been a lifelong goal for Abdulrahman, 33, another trainer for educators of blind and visually impaired students.

a blind man
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Aldroubi
Abdulrahman, 33, while delivering his training session to teachers in Homs city, as part of a UNICEF-supported teacher’s training focused on building the capacity of educators to best communicate with blind and visually impaired children and students.
a blind man explaining to a group of trainees
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Aldroubi

“Having lost my eyesight following an incident at the age of five, I’m aware of how challenging it could be for blind children to learn among sighted peers in the absence of resources or specialized schools,” says Abdulrahman, who focuses on sensitizing educational staff about teaching and communicating with blind children, as well as highlighting the contributions they can make to their communities.

“People with different sorts of disabilities, if given the right tools and equal opportunities, can and will achieve as much as anyone else,” says Abdularhman.

“Teachers and parents can play an important role in making their children with special abilities feel included if treated equally to their peers and siblings,” he adds.

Thanks to a generous contribution from Germany, UNICEF has so far supported 50 out of 100 targeted resource persons and teachers in Homs with training on subjects including life skills and communication with the blind and visually impaired for formal education as well as ‘Curriculum B’ and remedial learning programmes, aiming to reach 250  blind and visually impaired students, aged 5 to 18 years, with quality education through UNICEF-supported centres. UNICEF-supported volunteers are also working to raise awareness among some 500 children, half of them blind or visually impaired, as well as 150 caregivers, mainly through household visits.

“Every child deserves a chance to learn. My message to those with disabilities is for them to learn and to grow their support networks,” concludes Abdulrahman.

“Life will throw many challenges at you, but never ever let anyone convince you that you are less.”