Amplifying the voices of the visually impaired in South Sudan

01 March 2022|Kinaka Michael SJ, Education Programme Assistant in Maban, South Sudan

Amplifying the voices of the visually impaired in South Sudan
On 4th January 2022, JRS South Sudan marked World Braille Day with performances attended by people with disabilities, refugees, and host communities. The day celebrated visually impaired people and the outstanding contribution that Braille has made to their world.

The Braille Magic, a Breakthrough to Blind People’s Literacy

Without the word, visible or tangible, there can be no education. Braille, the language of the visually impaired is a system of raised dots that enable blind people to read and write with their fingers. This system consists of six dots in which the vertical line consists of three dots and the horizontal of two. The combination of these dots in all kinds of positions produces characters to each of which we assign a particular meaning, just like the sighted people assign meaning to ink print.

It is amazing how six dots can be so combined to represent so many things such as letters, marks of punctuation, signs, numerals, and musical notation. But again, look at what a language like English can do and/or say with an Alphabet of only 26 letters!

“There is no better time to be blind than today,” said Mr. Adut during his presentation on inclusion. Bwana Adut is a young refugee who is visually impaired and is currently doing his senior 3 in one of the community secondary schools in Maban. He counts himself blessed for having a chance to learn through braille.

Braille language was adopted as an official language for blind people only a century ago. It is clear to Mr. Adut that a century ago there was no literacy for the visually impaired owing to the lack of visible or tangible words.  As such, he considers himself and the few other visually impaired persons in Maban who have gotten a chance to acquire formal education through braille as existing at a very privileged time.

Overcoming Barriers to Education for Blind People

The greatest challenge that Adut faces as a visually impaired student, is that none of his schoolteachers can transcribe the lesson content into braille. This means that he cannot receive notes or any form of written assignment from his teachers. Besides, there are no braille curriculum learning and teaching materials from the Ministry of Education that can help the visually impaired.

As a result, Adut relies on the generosity of his sighted classmates and friends who repeat the class content for him orally after which he translates such content into braille for his reference.

I occasionally meet Adut to learn from each other and practice braille skills. It is in these encounters that we appreciate the beauty of every human experience that enriches our diversity.

The good news is that Adut has risen above his visual impairment, and he feels that his venture into education has given him a voice to advocate for others.

He is the only one from his settlement camp who has been lucky to get formal education. Adut believes that it is not much about the physical limitation that blind people face but it is the societal/ educational structures and barriers that make it impossible for him to excel.

All in all, Adut is a great witness of hope and resilience of how we can break all kinds of barriers for one another.




This article was first published by JRS East Africa.