Die opvoeding en onderwys van blindes in die RSA
Groenewald, Frederik Pieter
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The aim of this investigation was to review the position of the formal and formative education of the blind in the RSA, to pay particular attention to crucial problems and, by means of a scientifically accountable interpretation and evaluation, to arrive at meaningful recommendations in respect of a system of education for blind pupils. As regards the situation in the RSA, various methods were employed to obtain information. Visits were paid to schools, questionnaires completed by school principals and members of the staff, and interviews conducted with experts in various fields. Questionnaires were also sent to schools for the blind in certain overseas countries and an intensive literature study was undertaken. Being blind implies particular limitations in comparison with the seeing person. The blind person's exploration of his world is hampered; he is deprived, to a certain extent, of his freedom as a person and limitations are imposed on his potential of self-determination; his fellow-man may deny his human dignity; his opportunities and possibilities for self-actualization are restricted, and his future perspective is blurred. Certain educational directives arise from these implications of being blind. These include the following: The necessity of differentiated formal and formative education; the preparation of the blind child for the reality of life among the seeing, but also acknowledgement of the blind person's potential and limitations; the advancement of the mobility of the blind; the necessity of the effective use of his remaining senses, and aid to the blind child in respect of social integration, use of leisure, orientation with regard to the opposite sex, and his creative self-realization. The NG Kerk has made a particular contribution towards the establishment of education for the blind in the RSA. Education for the blind has, in die main, remained centralized at the School for the Blind at Worcester because the number of blind pupils has never increased to such an extent to justify a fully fledged second school for White blind children. Schools for the visually handicapped (blind and partially sighted children) are government-aided. The task of the church control bodies of these schools is, strictly speaking, mainly of a advisory nature. The fact that financial assistance for expansion, additional staff and other educational services can be provided by the church control body offers the principals of these schools the opportunity to display personal initiative in order to eliminate educational problems. As in the case of the RSA, there are indications that there is no significant increase in the number of blind children in overseas countries, although the percentage of multihandicapped blind children is increasing. Whereas mentally handicapped blind children are in fact admitted to schools for the blind in the RSA, it is the tendency in some overseas countries to provide for those children in separate schools or institutions. Comparative studies have revealed that the young blind child generally takes longer to obtain a grip on reality, is slower to master language and develops at a tardier tempo at the motor and social level than the normally sighted child. The presence of a blind child in a family often impairs the parent-child relationship. For this reason, parents have a need of assistance with regard to the formal and formative education of their pre-school blind children. In some overseas countries, such assistance takes the form of visits to parental homes by teachers and social workers as well as the establishment of parent clinics which are attended by parents and their blind toddlers and nursery schools for blind children. There are three factors basic to the uncertainty in respect of the applicability of a numerical criterion as a yardstick for admission to schools for the blind, viz: The possibility of a faulty evaluation on the part of the ophthalmologist; the fact that visually handicapped children sometimes use their remaining vision in totally different ways, and the uncertainty with regard to the determination of the progressiveness of the eye condition. At some schools for the blind in overseas countries, the inflexible separation of braille candidates and the partially sighted is eliminated by instructing border-line eases through the tactile as well as the visual medium. School-going pupils may be divided into three categories, viz pupils who are prepared for entry into sheltered workshops; pupils who, after receiving vocational training at school, make a direct entry into the open labour market and pupils who complete their secondary school careers successfully and continue their training at tertiary level. This provides an indication of the comprehensive nature of the School for the Blind at Worcester. As regards pre-prima~ blind children, they are provided for, from the approximate age of five years, in a preparatory class which offers a formative educational programme. The instruction programme in this class includes, inter alia, number concepts, religion, oral work, singing and music, elementary handwork and the elementary principles of braille. The extramural programme of these children is concentrated in particular on the promotion of their orientation in respect of reality, socialization and mobility. During the exploratory visits to schools for the blind, it appeared that primary school teachers succeed in individualizing the instruction to a considerable extent, in ensuring the involvement of the blind child in the classroom activities and in breaking through his wall of isolation. They are also capable of integrating educational aids in an accountable manner and to give priority to assisting the young blind child in his development towards independence. At the School for the Blind, remedial education is offered in Adjustment classes, whereas mentally retarded blind pupils are transferred to Special classes. Syllabuses and curricula offered in the secondary section of the School for the Blind are basically similar to those at schools for normally sighted pupils. Differentiation within the class context occurs mainly by devoting individual attention to pupils, inter-class grouping, variation in the rate of progress and the elimination of more difficult sections of the subject-matter for less gifted pupils. The matriculation results of the School for the Blind compare extremely favourable with those of schools for normally sighted pupils. It appears from the educational programme which is offered that specific attempts are made to cope with the unique problems which confront the education of the blind. There is differentiation in respect of the various aspects of the educational programme. These methods of differentiation refer to blind pupils among themselves as well as to blind pupils in contrast with normally sighted pupils. By employing an adaptable approach, considerable progress has already been made towards extending effectively the educational programme for the blind in the light of the blind pupil's needs and the demands of a seeing world. As regards vocational training at the School for the Blind, provision is made for various categories of blind children. The most important problems which are experienced in this regard are the limited occupational opportunities existing for the blind, which consequently hamper the extension of vocational training at the school. The nature of the vocational training of the blind in various overseas countries is largely similar to that offered in this country. Unlike the practical situation at the School for the Blind at Worcester, general education still forms an integral part of vocational training programmes at schools and training institutions for the blind in England and Belguim, in particular. A considerable number of the teaching staff at the School for the Blind at Worcester do not possess the Diploma in Special Education. This may be attributed to the fact that some teachers took the former internal course which the school itself offered; that others were trained abroad; that some have had so many years of teaching experience that further training is not deemed necessary and that others are still engaged in the course. In addition to the tertiary training of the staff, particular attention is devoted to in-service training at schools for the blind in the RSA. The improvement in the course of time in the staff position at schools for the blind in the RSA indicates that, with the aid and co-operation of the responsible departments, much has been achieved. However, the fact that certain class groups have, of necessity, to be grouped together and that certain posts are financed by church control bodies' would indicate that problems regarding adequate teaching staff are constantly being experienced. The comprehensive character of the School for the Blind, in particular, renders liberal staffing essential. The scope of psychological and guidance services at schools for visually handicapped is impressive. Pedodiagnosis is undertaken and individual assistance is provided in respect of pupils with problems pertaining to the person structure; complete personal profiles of pupils are drawn up; remedial instruction is given on an individual basis; play therapy is applied and guidance offered with regard to the choice of subjects, field of study and occupation. However, problems are experienced in obtaining suitable evaluation media. Ophthalmic, optometric, medical, physiotherapeutic and speech therapeutic services, on a full-time or part-time basis, are available at schools for the visually handicapped in the RSA. The increasing number of multi-handicapped blind children demands that medical and paramedical services should be concentrated to a greater extent on the needs of these children. The provision and use of educational aids which render possible and facilitate learning through the tactile and auditive medium are directly related to the degree of success achieved in the teaching of the blind. The School for the Blind at Worcester has a tape recording studio and a braille printing works. In order to try and ensure that the blind child will arrive at meaningful interpretation and the accurate forming of concepts, use is made, inter alia, of true-to-life models which the child can feel. The hostel as an educational milieu has been established by the educational authorities but does not, as such, constitute a natural educational environment. Justice can only be done to the task of education in the hostel if the child accepts the authority of the house parents, education by means of identification succeeds, house parents are required to assume responsibility for educating only a fairly small group of children and one guards against the real danger of isolating the blind child. The considerably distances between many parental homes and the School for the Blind at Worcester cause some pupils to visit their parents at home comparatively rarely and liaison between parents and staff is also affected as a result. Apart from the more formal educational, training and guidance programmes which are offered, schools for the blind have a particular responsibility in various other respects. Instruction in orientation and mobility, as well as in the mastery of everyday household tasks, is provided at the School for the Blind at Worcester. An important aim of the participation of the blind in recreational and cultural activities is to promote their social integration in the seeing community. Various schools for the blind in overseas countries devote attention to sex education. The formal sex and marriage guidance programme which is offered at the Bartimeus Institute in Zeist (Netherlands) is regarded as successful and even parents of blind day scholars have requested that their children be included in this programme. Fields of study in which blind school-leavers of the School for the Blind continue their studies at tertiary training institutions are the following: Theology, law, teaching, physiotherapy, social work and music. Students sometimes experience specific problems in obtaining textbooks in braille or on tape. Fields of study in which some blind persons are studying at the tertiary level in overseas countries but which have not, at this stage been established as fields of study with occupational possibilities for the blind are nursing, programming, journalism and the natural sciences. In addition to the School for the Blind, there are various bodies which concern themselves with the occupational placement of the blind, as well as with after-care on behalf of blind persons who pursue occupations. The major problem with regard to the occupational placement of the blind is the fact that occupational opportunities are limited which renders difficult an accountable occupational choice on the part of the blind person. Blind persons in the United States of America enter a wider variety of occupations than in the case of any other country involved in the investigation. The exploration of accessible occupations for the blind in the USA is based mainly on occupational analysis and various occupations are split up in such a way that blind persons may be integrated productively. In the light of the investigation, recommendations were made in respect of the following aspects of the education for the blind in the RSA: 1. The control of education for blind pupils. 2. Certain organizational aspects of the education for blind pupils. 3. Provision for the pre-school blind child. 4. Measures with reference to the admission of pupils to schools for the blind. 5. Differentiation in various study courses with reference to different categories of blind pupils. 6. The curricula with reference to various study courses and school phases. 7. Grouping of pupils and, in particular, the combined instruction of blind and partially sighted pupils (border-line cases) in the classroom. 8. Continued vocational training at schools for the blind and the nature of the vocational training courses. 9. The training of teaching staff. 10. Staffing at schools for the blind. 11. Psychological and guidance services at schools for the blind. 12. The production of literature in braille and on tape and the manufacture of other educational aids. 13. The integration of braille candidates in ophthalmic and opto-metric services and the provision of medical and paramedical services with reference to multi-handicapped blind children. 14. Measures regarding residential schools for the blind. 15. The expansion of the teaching of orientation and mobility to blind children, use of leisure, the social integration of the blind child, marriage and sex guidance to blind children, and the creation of opportunities for blind children to realise their creative potential. 16. Measures to promote the occupational placement of blind school-leavers. 17. The expansion of occupational opportunities for the blind. These recommendations with regard to the formal and formative education of the blind in the RSA envisage the introduction of certain essential innovations, the eliminations of existing crucial problems and the extension of differentiated education.
- Education