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Volume 7 number 1, April 2001
After a short illness Wolfgang Stein (Germany), President of ICEVI from 1977 to 1987, passed away on 28 December 2000. Wolfgang was a striking personality in the field of education and rehabilitation of people with visual impairment. The current ICEVI President commemorates him in this newsletter, Dr Hans-Eugen Schulze writes his obituary.
After his Presidency, he was especially active in the field of education to the visually impaired in Bulgaria and Romania in the years after the major political changes in Central and Eastern Europe, together with the then Chairperson of ICEVI-Europe, Ms Elisabeth Chapman.
Furthermore in this edition interesting articles about an often forgotten part of Europe, the Caucasian republics as well as information about the developments in Portugal and Slovenia.
Also two articles which require your reactions. An article by Markus Lang (Germany) about a Braille code for the PC and an article by Beatrice Renard-Willemaerts (Belgium) about the creation of a European study and meeting centre for visually impaired students. Both authors hope that you will give your reactions to their articles!
By now, many readers of the Newsletter will have received the Proceedings of the Cracow Conference: in this edition you will find detailed information about how to order this book.
Finally, in March the European Committee will hold its annual meeting in the UK. If you have any proposals, suggestions or questions: do not hesitate to mail them to me, I will then place them on the agenda (e-mail: email@example.com).
The next issue will be published in September. Please send in your copy before 1 July of this year.
Dr. Herman A.A.Gresnigt
European Chairman ICEVI
Grave, The Netherlands
It is with great sadness that the Executive Committee of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) learned of the death of our beloved former President on 28 December 2000.
Although our hearts are filled with sadness for the family and friends that Wolf has left behind; on this occasion it is appropriate that we reflect and rejoice in his accomplishments and their impact on blind and visually impaired persons throughout the world.
As President of ICEVI from 1977-1987 Wolf left an indelible mark on our organisation. During his two terms as President he created a level of awareness of the needs of blind and visually impaired persons in developing countries that had not existed within the organisation before his tenure.
Through his work with CBM and ICEVI, his passion and commitment to the capabilities of blind children and adults in developing countries has been transmitted to professionals throughout the world. Most importantly, as we acknowledge his achievements today, we all take pride and satisfaction in the many positive improvements that his tireless work has made in the quality of life of blind children and adults in the least developed countries of this world.
As his friends and family gather at his graveside today, we hope they take comfort in the knowledge that thousands of blind individuals throughout the world are there with you, in spirit, to bid farewell and to say "thank you" to a man whose efforts have improved the lives of so many.
Lawrence F. Campbell, President
on behalf of the ICEVI Executive Committee
Mr. Wolfgang Stein from Bensheim passed away on 28 December 2000 at the age of 70, following a short and critical illness.
As the son of a working-class family in Germany's industrial Ruhr area, it was at first hard for him to still his great hunger for education. He was only able to obtain his higher school-leaving certificate by attending evening classes while working at a crucible steel works. His life's achievements therefore deserve even greater respect.
After studying social education, he was initially employed at a variety of different social service institutions in Lower Saxony. During this time, his participation in the YMCA and his leadership of a "Students' Guild" which he founded to integrate young refugees from the former East Germany were of particular importance to him.
Following thorough preparation, he was in charge of the residential school of the Hildesheimer Blindenmission in Hong Kong from 1964 to 1970.
At the time when he decided to return to Germany to ensure his children's future schooling, Christoffel-Blindenmission under its then Executive Director Pastor Siegfried Wiesinger had reached a size which made it seem appropriate to create a special department for its overseas work. Mr. Stein was Director of Overseas Services, with its subsequent branches for the education and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities on the one hand, and medical services on the other, from 1970 to 1984, a position in which he displayed great circumspection and commitment. This post entailed frequent travels to promote the services and motivate the staff of schools, training centres, eye hospitals and other institutions for blind persons and eye patients, later on also for deaf and physically disabled persons, in close cooperation with partners. He did so with a great deal of expertise, understanding of the individual circumstances and educational skill. CBM's reputation with its partners rose accordingly, and its work became ever more successful. This service also placed the highest of demands on Mr. Stein. From 1984 to 1989, he was advisor on education of visually impaired persons to the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, and continued to organise and conduct frequent further training courses for teachers of the visually impaired, especially in Bulgaria and Romania, after his retirement, on behalf of this Society, CBM and other organisations.
In the course of his services at CBM, Mr. Stein developed highly regarded models and programmes of his own for the integration of blind children into schools for the sighted, for the reintegration of adult victims of river blindness into their village communities, and for the basic and further training of all kinds of skilled personnel in Third World countries. He also initiated the manufacture of spectacles and eye drops in those countries and put into practice the ideas of other experts. The International Resource Directory of the International Council for the Education of the Visually Impaired (formerly International Council for the Education of the Visually Handicapped), is based on his initiative. The educational kit which CBM still provides to blind pupils all over the world was developed at his instigation.
From 1977 to 1987, Mr. Stein was President of ICEVI, with the support of CBM. Lawrence Campbell, the current President, has written the following in his obituary which is to be published in the Educator and the European Newsletter: "As President of ICEVI from 1977-87 Wolf left an indelible mark on our organisation. During his two terms as President he created a level of awareness of the needs of blind and visually impaired persons in developing countries that had not existed within the organisation before his tenure. Through his work with CBM and ICEVI, his passion and commitment to the capabilities of blind children and adults in developing countries has been transmitted to professionals throughout the world. We all take pride and satisfaction in the many positive improvements that his tireless work has made in the quality of life of blind children and adults in the least developed countries of this world." Rev. Karl Dietrich Opitz, himself a former CBM co-worker in Africa, put it as follows in his funeral oration based on Psalm 90: "As a superior, he asked his co-workers to give their all, but so did he himself. Wolf Stein was an educationist through and through, and that is why, in the poor countries around the equator, there is a time "before Wolf Stein" and a time "after Wolf Stein". His name was synonymous throughout the world with competence and expertise in all areas of the education of people with disabilities, and he became well-known for his love of blind children, his love of all disabled persons."
Mr. Stein intended to hold his first ICEVI conference (in 1982), the seventh of its kind, for the first time in one of Africa's developing countries - Kenya. This idea was enthusiastically received by many Europeans. Unfortunately, the conference itself had to be cancelled due to an attempted coup d'état by the Kenyan air force. The proceedings with the planned presentations were published all the same, including contributions from German-speaking countries by Werner Boldt, Doris Fichtner (a CBM educationist who also died last year), Jürgen Hertlein, Hans-Eugen Schulze, Edeltraud Zigo and Wolfgang Stein himself. Those present in Nairobi will not forget the spirit of community that developed in the hotels where we were virtually prisoners, despite the failure of the conference as such.
Mr. Stein's second world conference was held in Würzburg, Germany, in 1987. According to Dr. Jeanne Kenmore, the previous ICEVI President, the conference was "a huge success".
I myself was privileged to engage in a constant exchange of thoughts with Mr. Stein from the time of his preparation for Hong Kong, and was even able to establish the contact between him and CBM in 1968. I often had the feeling that he acted on my behalf too, since I was unable, for professional and other reasons, to serve blind people throughout the world as he did. He brought education, and therefore light, to thousands of persons with visual impairments from South America via Africa and Asia to the islands of the South Pacific. For this we will always remember him with gratitude.
Dr. Hans-Eugen Schulze
Retired judge of Germany's Federal Supreme Court and Honorary Advisor to CBM
ICEVI's Conference in Krakow last July offered a valuable and unique opportunity to representatives of the three boarding schools for blind and partially sighted children, located in the Caucasus. Taking part, in the end, were a science teacher from theTbilisi school, and the director of Yerevan's school. Regretfully, the gentleman from Baku was unable to attend. At the conference, ICEVI's guests from Georgia and Armenia established contacts with colleagues from other schools, and with representatives of various organizations. They returned home from the conference with new ideas and a fresh perspective. This article, prepared by an American who also attended the conference, and who has worked closely with the Yerevan school and has visited the schools in Baku and Georgia, presents an overview of their difficult circumstances. The picture is stark, the obstacles seem overwhelming. Yet, there appear to be glimmers of promise, particularly within the circles of caring school faculty and devoted families.
Those who are familiar with conditions at schools in other parts of the former Soviet Union will find no surprises in this report. One significant difference sets the schools in the Caucasus apart from those in the other newly independent republics. Isolation. More than ten years of internal and external conflicts, energy and economic crises, unstable governments, and natural disasters have brought these three countries to the brink of collapse. Under such circumstances, "special schools" are last on any government's list of priorities. As a result, they have been left to fend for themselves, to struggle day by day to provide at least the minimum level of care for their pupils. Due to a virtual information blockade (who has money for internet and for private English lessons in order to read web pages?) school faculty and parents are bereft of current information on educational methodologies, philosophy, the modern approach to understanding and coping with disabilities.
In educational, social and administrative spheres, the schools share common problems. Each director has the obligation to follow the regular curriculum established by the Ministry of Education. Children are supposed to learn physics, geography, their national literature, etc., in spite of the fact that the schools lack most specialized educational tools and supplies which Westerners take for granted. The children write with Braille plates, not Braille machines (between the three schools there are no more than 8 machines, most of which are broken). There is never enough Braille paper (not to mention a chronic lack of toilet paper). If they have relief-map globes at all, the surfaces are worn smooth, rendering them unusable. Classrooms are not designed for use by visually impaired children. Overhead lighting (when there is electricity), chalk boards, desks are all standard issue for regular schools. Most cassette players are broken; the few that work must be shared by several teachers. School libraries still maintain collections of reel-to-reel tape classics, such as Marx, Engels, and Lenin, plus the national literature. Most of the teachers, already over the age of 45, have not had opportunities to up-date their knowledge and expertise. Neither can they travel abroad to attend trainings, nor do experts from other countries visit to share their ideas and approaches.
Where the pupils' social activities are concerned, teachers and parents try their best to organize one or two excursions each year, despite the lack of transportation and fuel (in this case, the Baku school is fortunate to have its own bus and plenty of fuel; the opposite holds for the schools in Tbilisi and Yerevan). Children attend one or two concerts at the philharmonic, or perhaps spend a few afternoons in a park. Generally, boredom and lack of stimulation is a serious problem for all of the pupils, in each school. Once the school day is over, "care-takers" remain with the children, doing their best to provide some activities under conditions where there are not even radios on hand. The school in Tbilisi often must close down in the winter months, as there is rarely any heat. In Yerevan, they manage, somehow, with cheaply constructed electric heaters that are dangerous fire hazards. As for administrative matters, of course the greatest problem is lack of funds. Directors and teachers receive miniscule salaries, on a quarterly basis. The average salary for a director is roughly equivalent to $30 per month. Obtaining money to buy food for the kitchen, in the cases of Tbilisi and Yerevan, is a constant struggle with government bureaucrats. It can be easier and faster to beg for food from local meat and vegetable vendors or sausage factories.
School directors, presidents of the various "blind associations," parents and teachers remember fondly the days before the collapse of the USSR, when they could rely on the state to take care of them. One often hears people express the wish for a single, magnanimous sponsor, a generous businessman, perhaps, who will come along and take the school into his care and make all of the problems disappear. Hardly anyone is prepared to face today's imperative - fund-raising. Among international agencies and NGOs, few, if any, take an interest in assisting these schools. Diaspora concern themselves usually with orphanages and refugees. UNICEF's approach is not specific to the needs of children with visual impairment. Instead, UNICEF keeps its focus on promoting the idea of integrated classrooms. Why invest in training teachers at "special schools" if, in the long run, the children will be moved over to regular schools? Of the dozens of international NGOs located in the Caucasus, not more than one in each country has expressed an interest in becoming involved in the schools (e.g. Save the Children, Georgia; Oxfam, Baku, USPeaceCorps, Yerevan).
Against such a pessimistic picture, where can we look to find inspiration and promise? This author believes the key to change lies with families and with those teachers and directors who demonstrate genuine concern for the pupils' welfare and future. Here are a few examples of success.
In Tbilisi, the English teacher succeeded in preparing not one, but two, pupils for participation in a one-year study program in the United States. In Yerevan, a Peace Corps volunteer is assisting the director in locating funds for school repairs and is helping to improve the level of English taught at school.
Note: USPeaceCorps does not operate in Georgia and Azerbaijan, and English is not taught at the school in Baku.
Also in Yerevan, donations of computers, voice synthesizer software and computer training have been arranged by a talented journalist from Beirut (who is blind). In Baku, the director has sought assistance from every embassy and various international firms. Benefits from the country's "oil boom" are beginning -slowly - to trickle down to the school.
In each school, in each community, one can find individuals who demonstrate the will and determination to bring about changes and improvements. Their difficulty lies in learning how to do this. In a society where, for the past several decades, assistance was handed down from above, these people will have some difficulty in learning how to take matters into their own hands. When teachers and family members have opportunities to learn from the experiences of other countries (particularly, the successful models in Central Europe), if they are able to gain access to current literature (in Russian translation), these communities will have the chance to move forward toward gaining greater mobility, independence, and the fullest realization of their children's dreams and abilities.
Elizabeth L. Winship
For detailed information on each school, needs assessment plans and strategies, please contact the author, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In December 2000, Tartu Emajoe Skool celebrated its 75th anniversary. After special programmes for the children and former staff, a two-day programme had been prepared for the school staff and for international and national guests. The Baltic and Nordic countries were well represented at the celebration.
During the first day the international guests had a chance to see the newly renovated part of the school. The upper part of the school building had recently been renewed with a new computer class, a well equipped handicraft class etc. At an exhibition the guests could admire the excellent results of the students' art and handicraft work.
At the welcoming ceremony we could also enjoy a well-rehearsed musical programme by present and former students. A guided tour through old Tartu gave us all an interesting insight into Estonian life, history and architecture.
The meeting with the teachers in the evening enabled us to discuss the current situation in Estonia and the education of the visually impaired in the country. Or just to gossip and try to find a mutual language.
The next day was a full conference day named "School and Society for the Visually Impaired". As the teachers in the school have good linguistic abilities, translations into Finnish, English and Russian were provided during the conference.
The programme at the conference gave a broad perspective of the past and present situation of the education of children and young people with a visual impairment at the Tartu school. There were lectures by teachers on developing the creativity of students, on information technology and sports as well as a presentation of stereotype behaviour. We were also informed about the vocational training and employment of people with visual impairment in Estonia.
The international participants had been asked to lecture on special topics in their countries. One lecture focussed on the Lithuanian system of education. Another one dealt with vocational training and rehabilitation for employment by the Arla institute and yet another one dealt with the support given by the Jyväskylä school for the visually impaired for the students in mainstream in Finland. The Swedish delegate from TRC presented some interesting computer games for the visually impaired.
I had been asked to present the Nordic and Baltic co-operation for education of the visually impaired. This gave me the opportunity to forward the personal greetings of Herman Gresnigt as well as the greetings from ICEVI Europe.
Typhlopedagogics has long-standing traditions in Georgia. A Charity Society with the purpose of rendering assistance to the blind was founded in 1889. In 1893 the Society established an educational institution for visually impaired children with its own resources. Upon the incentive of the Society a three-storeyed building for training and education of blind children was built. The inauguration ceremony took place on June 20, 1900.
The first Georgian version of Braille was approved by the Ministry of Education in 1949 with the first book, "Deda Ena (Mother Tongue)", published in 1953. In 1954, the secondary school was transformed into educational boarding school for children with visual impairment.
During the next stage, namely in 1975-1987, the boarding school was supplied with didactic materials and visual aids. In the school special classes were introduced (vocational, physics, chemistry, geography, biology, audition, physical culture and etc). In 1976 the blind children started studying a two-year course of massage at the boarding school and upon graduation of the school they are provided a license, allowing them to work as a masseur.
Nowadays, three state educational institutions are responsible for the education of children with visual impairment. These are: pre-school institution, boarding, and boarding school for children who have lost sight. The form of education of children with visual impairment is differentiated. At present we have serious drawbacks in preparing specialists in the sphere of Typhlopedagogics. Students of Guramishvili Pedagogical College (director T. Mdivani) acquire theoretical and practical knowledge in the sphere of Typhlopedagogy at the boarding school for visually impaired children (director R. Andguladze).
It must be stated that the problems that we come across during our Typhlopedagogical activity are not only of a general nature. Quite often we are not adequately supplied with even such elementary things, which are necessary for visually impaired pupils during their learning activities (good-quality paper for Braille, spoken text-books, text-books with relief which answer the requirements of the new curriculum, audio equipment). The economic crisis, that the country is now facing, is greatly contributing to the arising of a critical situation in this area.
Based on personal experience, I can assert, that for any type of correctional-pedagogical research activities it is of outmost importance to provide each lesson with special aids and materials, to stimulate visual or tactual perception. We do not possess enough means to have special classrooms and studies equipped with corresponding aids (mostly self-made).
Considering the above-mentioned it becomes clear that educational specialists in this area have to deal with a multitude of various problems and it is really hard for them to "retain the spirit of a teacher".
At present in Georgia we are following recommendations on substituting old methods with new ones, although certain specific aspects of implementation of these innovations are not quite clear yet.
The access to education in Portugal is guaranteed by ensuring educational support to those pupils that present special educational needs, in order to facilitate integration in inclusive settings at mainstream schools, using different organisational models according to the needs evaluated. These models range from total and functional integration in the mainstream classroom, through partial integration in activities with mainly social and personal characteristics for life and citizenship, as well as integration in a special class within a mainstream school.
The Portuguese education system presents nine years of compulsory education divided intro three cycles followed by a secondary education constituted by three years prior to higher education.
Even if history of inclusion is quite recent, (early 90's) the system provides enough support teachers for children with special educational needs (covering around 75% of the needs) or specialists teachers for what we call low incidence impairments, - visually, deaf, motor, mental impairment and multi handicapped pupils. Local co-ordination of all actions of support teachers in the schools are ensured by Support Education Co-ordination Teams - ECAE -, managed by five Regional Education Directions.
The support teachers are resources for schools, working directly with school board and co-operating with mainstream teachers in diversifying educational approaches and strategies, finding best support technologies in order to improve pupils' learning and the accessibility to the curriculum.
In Portugal, visually impaired children can choose any school for best attending to their needs, from pre-school education (5 years old) to secondary school. For younger children (0 to 5 years old), early intervention is provided by a multidisciplinary team, working at home or at institutions.
The school can initiate several activities in order to positively influence the process of learning of pupils with visual impairment, such as providing special equipment, special assessment conditions and flexibility of management of the curriculum. The law establishes to all children with special educational needs the arrangement of an Individual Education Plan (IEP), to be elaborated by the Specialised Education Support Services (Psychology and Guidance Services - SPO and Educational Support Teacher). If the team concludes that some curricula aims are not possible to achieve, depending on specific individual needs, a special program is organised introducing specific contents, providing adaptations, varying from simple adaptations of objectives/contents/tasks (conferring a diploma of compulsory education) to an alternative individual curriculum, leading to a certificate of specific competences for following training or work.
At present, some projects are developed by the ECAE's in order to establish co-operation between local services - networks - including education(special schools), health, social services and work, in the fields of early intervention to transition to active life.
The majority of visually impaired pupils (blind and low vision) follow the "normal" curricula with some adaptations, as others. Since early stages - pre-school/1st Cycle - that have access to learn/train specific competencies (mobility and guidance, daily activities, Braille code, vision training and transition to adult and active life), in educational and social environments, in different non-exclusive context combinations - trying to follow classroom curricula in the classroom with all others; being out for a specific time in a special class; or in a separate special class always followed by the visual impairment specialised teacher.
Another interesting resource is Na Sa Anjos Center, an institution from the Solidarity and Work Ministry in Lisboa, that provides intensive reinforce courses in the specific areas mentioned above, during school time in holidays.
Those visually impaired pupils that are also multi-handicapped can benefit from the support of other community services/institutions as ONG/cooperatives/governmental (CERCIS, Colégios, Parent Associations, Health and Social Services, Professional Training and Employment), with whom the Ministry of Education has made agreements for this purpose.
All resources and materials needed are usually provided by the school (information and communication technologies, magnifiers, optical and non optical devices/equipment, Braille printer...) but also by Support Centers for Visual Impairment from Regional Directorates (Lisboa e Coimbra), and by the National Resource Center of the Basic Educational Department that produces tape recordings, Braille books, Large Print Texts, text adaptations and relief images. Continuous training courses for ECAE/support teachers are organised either by Regional Directorates or by the Central Department, with the support of European Commission/PRODEP Programme.
Despite a rather comprehensive legislation, in Portugal the support to visually impaired children/youngsters provided in mainstream schools is not immune to difficulties. We have yet a long range for optimising the resources available in order to achieve a better curriculum for the visually impaired individuals, promoting inclusion in school and in social community.
Departamento da Educaçao Basica-nucleo de Orientaçao Educativa e de Educaçao Especial
Av. 24 de Julho, 140, 1399-025 Lisboa, Portugal
The PC has become one of the most important aids for visually impaired people in their professional and social life as well as at school. In various fields it is useful and necessary that blind and sighted people are able to co-operate and communicate at the same computer work station. In this context we are confronted with the problem, that the traditional Braille Code and print do not correspond completely. The same problems arise when using the internet.
The Braille Code with its six-dot cell matrix allows the formation of 63 different signs. Concerning numbers and capitals special preceding signs are needed. A further problem deals with the contraction signs.
The identical representation of signs on the braille display and the screen without using additional translation software requires a clear correspondence between Braille Code and print. An eight-dot code makes this possible.
In the German-speaking countries therefore a standardized eight-dot code (called Eurobraille) is used. Eurobraille contains all signs of the ASCII-Code, e.g. capitals, numbers and other special signs like é, e, Ä, o, A, ë, a etc. that occur in West European languages. Capitals are formed by adding dot number 7 (below dot number 3). The small letters are not affected by Eurobraille. Only the special signs lead to exceptions such as ß, Ä, ä, Ö etc.
Considering that the difficulties of blind and sighted people concerning their cooperation at a computer work station are present in all countries, the use of a uniform eight-dot code appears to be essential and sensible. The communication as well as the learning of foreign languages would then be consiberably easier.
A first step towards a standardization is the stock-taking of the Braille Codes that are currently used in European countries.
This leads to the following questions:
Which Braille Code is used in your country:
I would like to collect and analyse your information and then offer the results to ICEVI. On the basis of that data a further discussion could be initiated.
Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg (University of Education)
Fakultät 1 / Blindenpädagogik
69121 Heidelberg, Germany
The APAMbf (Association des Parents d'Aveugles et Malvoyants de Belgique Francophone/Association of parents of blind and visually impaired children in francophone Belgium) is currently studying the feasibility of an 'International Meeting Centre for Specialised Studies for the Blind and the Visually Impaired in Europe'.
If you are in any way interested in such a project, you can help to set it up as an efficient tool for young visually impaired people. Please send us your opinion and suggestions to help realise this centre:
Beatrice Renard-Willemaerts Rue En Bois 104 B-4000 LIEGE BELGIUM
Tel.: +32 (0)4 224 70 16
Fax: +32 (0)4 224 70 15
Brief description of the project:
The creation of a study and meeting centre to welcome blind and visually impaired students either for a whole school year or a shorter period. The period would be considered as a pivotal year between the end of secondary school and higher education or the entry into professional life. The centre would have a European vocation as much in the context of the courses and activities as in the objectives, organisation and management.
The students and the courses :
Proceedings European Conference Cracow, Poland, 9-13 July 2000
The Proceedings consist of:
To be ordered at:
Secretariat of ICEVI-Europe
c/o St Elisabethstraat 4,
5361 HK Grave,
by transfer of 30 Euro (package and postage included) to:
account number 12.69.95.036 of "Conference Cracow 2000", Rabobank Grave, The Netherlands.
(make sure your remittance states your name and address !!)
Soon also available on our web site: www.icevi-europe.org
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