No mention of training centres for the blind in government’s new COVID-19 guidelines.
Due to the pandemic the National Association for Blind (NAB) as well as other institutions in India, have become non-functional.
According to an employee at the association in Karnataka, there were around 600-700 people who used to avail mobility, computer skills, communication and soft skills, braille reading and writing, competitive exam preparation, etc. before covid-19 but since March last year, the campus facility has been empty.
Ritu Kumari, a visually-impaired student, said, “Since last year schools and colleges were closed which hampered the education and mobility training. And now we can’t go out without training.”
According to the training staff at National Association for blind, around September they organized an online training program for students, to provide some educational and communication training because students couldn’t go out, but it didn’t help much.
Some institutions like the Blind Welfare Society Delhi lack funds to operate as they have students in the hostel facilities, but institutions like the National Association for the Blind are in manageable condition but have no students and faculty, according to sources. Defining the funding structure San Chacko, the accountant of NAB Bangalore said, “Funds before covid-19 used to be around rupees Rs 72 lakh but after covid-19 they have come down to Rs 49 lakhs”. There has been a downfall in funds, the association reports but with no students, the funds are of no use.
Due to the government’s recent order, even the training program for the fieldworkers, who used to go door-to-door providing medicines, food and necessary materials like canes for walking aid, has stopped now. This has now been followed by a stoppage of training programmes for the training staff.
Madhu Singhal who herself is a visually challenged woman and is also the founder of Mitra Jyothi said in context of the current situation of the training and the students, “Some students are tech savvy so they somewhat study at home on computer systems, but some children are small who cannot be taught online. Students even can’t get physical help outside their homes as people are also reluctant because of COVID-19’’. Adding to that she even told how the foundation is providing the students with books, so they can continue with their studies.
With no clarity for the specially-abled schools the issued COVID-19 guideline for schools and colleges by the Karnataka government, will further bring down the hopes of a better livelihood for the visually challenged.