Enablng Jetha to learn, Nepal

Janak Thapa

The Nepal Association for the Welfare of the Blind (NAWB) runs a CBR project in Dharan, eastern Nepal, in partnership with Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM). NAWB/Dharan is proud of having enrolled 40 blind children in local schools in the districts of Sunsary, Morang and Jhapa. Janak Thapa tells the story of one of those children: Jetha Murmu.

Jetha is the eldest son of a family of three children. His family is extremely poor and 'illiterate'. They belong to one of the indigenous peoples in the south-east of Nepal. At first Jetha's parents denied the blindness of their baby, but later they looked for treatment. When the baby was declared incurable by the opthalmologists, the parents became completely mad. They were hopeless for their child's future. They did not allow Jetha to go outside the house and play with other children.

Jetha was 11 years old when Mr Laxmi Bhandari, of NAWB/Dharan, found him in the course of a house-to-house survey. When Mr Bhandari first asked if the family was interested in educating Jetha, he was almost beaten by the angry parents and he had to run away. Their other children did not go to school and they had not even heard of the education of the children before. In fact, the parents wanted to hand Jetha over to Mr Bhandari. After some time he took them to meet a blind lady who was already reading and writing Braille and was an active member of her family. It was only after this experience that the parents allowed him to teach Jetha.

Mr Bhandari visited Jetha twice a week, for two hours, to teach him to use Braille and an abacus. He also gave him orientation and mobility (O&M) training using a small white cane.

After the training Mr Bhandari took Jetha to his local school, but the headmaster did not want to enroll him. When Mr Bhandari showed the teachers how Jetha could read and write Braille using a slate and stylus, and do maths on an abacus, they allowed him to start school in Class 1. NAWB/Dharan gave Jetha's parents an interest free loan so that they could buy two small pigs to help fund his education.

Jetha is now in Class 5. Mr Bhandari no longer needs to visit him regularly. He goes to school independently using his white cane. He has many friends and the teachers are proud of having such a talented blind boy in their school. One of the teachers has been trained in Braille so that he can help him in school. He has become the talk of the village:

"Jetha is the only boy in the village who can read and write, even without light in the night."

Useful Publications

See with the Blind: Trends in Education of the Visually-Impaired (1999)
Edited by Gunawathy Fernandez, Claudia Koenig, MNG Mani, Sian Tesni. Co-published by Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) & Books for Change ISBN: 81 87380 44 6

The chapters in this book cover a wide range of topics related to visual impairment and blindness in South Asia: inclusive education, daily living skills, CBR, employment, information technology.

Available from:

CBM South Asia Regional Office (South), 559, 11th Main Road, HAL IInd Stage, Indiranagar, Bangalore 560 008, India

Books for Change, 8 Wood Street, Ashok Nagar, Bangalore 560 025, India Price: Rs 250

Helping Children Who Are Blind
by Sandy Niemann and Namita Jacob, is a new publication which focuses on the needs of blind children in the first 5 years of life. (200 pages). ISBN:0-942364-34-1 (English), 0-942364-37-6 (Spanish). US$12.00

The Hesperian Foundation, 1919 Addison Street, Suite 304, Berkeley, California 94704, USA. Tel: (510) 845 9160. fax: (510) 845 0539. Email: Web: http://www.hesperian.org

Reference:
Title: Enabling Jetha to Learn, Nepal
Author: Thapa, J
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2001
Link: http://www.eenet.org.uk/resources/eenet_newsletter/news5/page15.php
Published in: Enabling Education 5