By Saikou Suwareh Jabai  

The Executive Director of the Gambia Organisation of the Visually Impaired (GOVI) has called on the government, non-governmental organisations and philanthropists to come to the aid of his institution so as to enable them effectively teach their students.

He lamented the inadequate learning materials in the school, an issue which, he said, is seriously hampering the teaching and learning of students in the school.

Mr Mamour Touray was speaking to this reporter recently in an exclusive interview at his office in Kanifing.

Commenting on mass unemployment of visually impaired persons in The Gambia, the director said, it has been a challenge they have been grumbling with since the establishment of the institution. He said across the board, both illiterate and literate visually impaired students who passed through the school and even graduated from the college find it extremely difficult to get a job. He said employers tend to favour their sighted counterparts more than them and that people do not know much how to deal with disables. He added that due to their conditions, their students cannot do mathematics and that this is a deterrent factor to their low level of education. While asserting that not all types of jobs can be handled by visually impaired persons, the director noted that their people are discriminated in job acquisition. He said they have written to many organisations but whenever their graduates go there for job interviews, they are dropped due to their disability.

Asked how far they have gone in their strive to end this challenge, the director said through the foresight of the Gambia Federation of the Disables (GFD), they have presented a bill to parliament which seeks to ensure that every organisation employs at least 1.5 to 2% of disable persons in their total employment. The said bill, according to him, has been ratified in parliament through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare but is yet to be domesticated.

Director Touray described finance as a major challenge for the school as running a visually impaired school is extremely expensive. He said they are partnering with the government in the implementation of the school but that the government only pays the salaries of the teachers. He added that it is the organisation that is responsible for the feeding of the children, providing uniforms, books, and other materials. Touray further disclosed that three quarter of their funds go to the operational cost of the school. He said they sponsor their students up to college level and lately, the ministry of education had assisted them with a 25 seater-bus which is helping them greatly in transporting their students. According to Touray, the school is in dire need of Braille machine and papers for each student in the school. Unfortunately, the director noted that there is inadequate number of these machines in the school, saying the student population far exceeds the number of the machines available. Costing 600 pounds each, he said they cannot afford to buy these heavy duty learning machines and therefore enjoined the government to look into the plight of their school and assist it to purchase more of these machines for them so as so empower the visually impaired persons with education.

The director finally called on people to stop discriminating against disable persons and support them wholeheartedly so as to halt their begging syndrome. ‘Being blind is not the end of everything, they have something to offer,’ he concluded.