BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – By 2020, at least 35 students have been identified to be at risk of losing their vision, the head of Special Education Unit said.

The number will add on to the 154 students currently suffering visual impairment at the primary to tertiary level registered with the unit, Ali Yusri Abdul Ghafor said. He added that without proper learning tools, students with visual impairment tend to lag behind in literacy development.

On Monday, the chairman of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB) Committee of Governors HRH Prince ‘Abdul Malik, presented Braille machines to 42 students with visual impairment in an effort to provide inclusive education and giving them the same learning opportunities.

Parents of visually impaired students receives braille machine for their children donated by Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB). Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

The recipients, who suffer from various degrees of visual impairment, comprise primary, secondary, and religious schools students from around the country.

The contribution is one of the foundation’s initiatives in addressing the welfare and well-being of those with visual impairment realism their potential.

“[By] teaching them braille as early as we can, it will help them in their studies,” he said.

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YSHHB’s assistant managing director, Hjh Donnaliza Abdullah Puasa said that due to the high cost of braille machines, the learning tool is beyond the reach of many families.

A braille machine and textbooks on display during the YSHHB brailled machine donation ceremony on March 4. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

“We have the data projection… we will look into this and work out what we can do. For the time being, we have put in place plans to supply individual children with items that they need in their learning [such as magnifying glass and white canes]. This is to ensure that they would be able to enjoy learning as other students would and that they would be able to benefit from the development of technologies as well,” she added.

Ali Yusri hopes that the event would open up more collaboration with the foundation, not only to help students with visual impairment, but also those with other special needs.

A total of 5,000 students are registered with the Special Education Unit, out of which, 2,000 are children with autism. 

One of the recipients, eight-year-old Nur Fatanah Fdillah Abdullah was diagnosed with retinoblastoma at birth, and her mother, Fatimah Hj Akhbar said it has affected her vision.

“Eventhough she has done well academically, she has been struggling [because of her eyesight]. She just started her braille classes. Hopefully it will help her in her studies.

“We don’t know if her vision will improve. We hope that it will not worsen, but we hope she would be able to pursue her studies to tertiary level,” said the mother-of-three.

Nur Fatanah is a student of Penanjong Primary School and is the youngest of the three siblings.

The chairman of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB) Committee of Governors, HRH Prince ‘Abdul Malik mingles with parents of visually impaired students after he presented braille machines donated by Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB) on March 4. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Meanwhile, for Norzanah Ghani, the mother of siblings Nurul Izaty Mehalan and Mohammad Izzam Mehalan, she wants her children to be able to have equal learning opportunities.

Commenting on her eldest, 11-year-old Mohammad Izzam., she said “It is hard for him see, we can read to him, but he can’t see well enough to read for himself.”

As for her daughter, eight-year-old Nurul Izaty, Norzanah said a teacher alerted her of her daughter’s condition when one day during a cleaning campaign, Nurul Izaty struggled to collect and reach out to pick up rubbish as instructed.

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