KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — When he was in school, Silatul Rahim Dahman dreamt of being a scientist or astronomer someday. He knew it would be a daunting task for him to realise his ambition as a bout of high fever had left him blind since the age of six.
He did not allow his disability to stand in his way as he was a diligent student at Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid in Alor Setar, Kedah, where he studied.
However, he had to bid goodbye to his dreams in Form Three as he was forced to drop mathematics and science, simply due to the lack of textbooks in Braille.
Not one to wallow in self-pity, Silatul Rahim went on to complete his secondary school education and made good with a couple of opportunities that came his way that allowed him to obtain a diploma in Assistive Technology from Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia in the United States in 1989, and a diploma in Access Technology from the Carroll Center for the Blind in Boston in 2007.
Today, Silatul Rahim, 49, is chief executive officer of the Malaysian Foundation for the Blind (MFB).
“As a student, I was very keen on studying in the science stream but was forced to switch to arts. Of course, I was disappointed,” he said.
He said currently, there was still a lack of textbooks for the blind for critical subjects like science and maths due to the shortage of experts who could convert the conventional texts into Braille.
“It’s not easy to do the Braille version of maths as a lot formulae, figures and calculations are involved. We need really good experts to do this,” he added.
According to Silatul Rahim, the difficulty in securing reading materials and workbooks, especially for subjects like science and mathematics, in Braille has resulted in many students not being to pursue their higher studies in the fields concerned.
Over 50,000 visually handicapped people are registered with the Social Welfare Department but only a handful of them are said to be self-reliant.
Silatul Rahim is lucky he has a good job and can fend for himself. Those without educational qualifications or skills have no choice but to resort to begging, selling packets of tissue or busking in public places to eke out a living.
Deserve Equal Opportunities:
For many years, local associations and organisations taking care of the welfare of the blind have been demanding that special education students be accorded the same opportunities as mainstream school students, knowing fully well that education is the right agent to transform people with disabilities into human capital.
In line with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s commitment in 2000 to achieve the Education For All goals by 2015, the disabled community also deserves to be given opportunities to realise their full potential as they too can contribute to the nation’s development.
It has been almost 60 years since this nation attained independence, but they are are still struggling for better educational facilities and resources which, if made available to them, can propel them to the same level as their able-bodied peers.
“It’s not like as if they are incapable of competing with normal students,” remarked Malaysian Muslim Association for the Blind vice president Zamzuri Gani.
“In fact, in the 2015 SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) exam, two blind students scored 10As. This shows that they can do well if given the appropriate space and opportunities.”
Acknowledging that the number of blind students accepted into public and private institutions of higher learning has been on the rise, Zamzuri said most of them pursued their tertiary education in the arts, Islamic studies, economics, law and other fields.
“However, very few blind students join critical fields like science and mathematics. It’s not that they lack the capability, but there’s a dire shortage of facilities and resources to meet their needs,” he said.
Not Enough Braille Textbooks:
The issue of insufficient textbooks in Braille at the special schools for the blind is a long-standing one, and the authorities have still not found a solution for it.
According to Zamzuri, there were still no textbooks for some subjects like Bahasa Arab and Islamic Studies that were taught at secondary schools.
“Apart from that, we also face problems of Braille textbooks that are damaged or have gone missing… it’s difficult to replace these books because of the high cost involved,” he said.
To overcome the shortage of textbooks in Braille, many special schools for the blind have opted for the cheaper audio learning aids. But the audio system has its share of constraints as it is only suitable for the teaching of subjects like Bahasa Malaysia, English and history that do not use much graphics.
by Kurniawati Kamarudin
Read more @ http://education.bernama.com/index.php?sid=news_content&id=1329136