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CHANGING SOCIAL ATTITUDE TOWARD BLIND STUDENTS IN MAINSTREAM SCHOOL SYSTEM

 

Nauyen Dinh Chieu School for the blind

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 

This paper is written from the five-year work implementing integrated education for visually disabled children in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

I/ GENERAL, SOCIAL ATTITUDE TOWARD BLIND PERSONS:
1) Prejudice on blind persons:
- Generally, it is said that "disability means useless", and disability comes from the sin of the parents in previous lives or the disabled individual's previous life; it needs to be hidden. Therefore, people are not necessarily interested in educating visually disabled persons to be independent and prevent them from enhancing their potential.
- Traditionally people thought that disability meant talent. This point of view makes blind individuals sit down and expect help and lose their self-confidence.
- Many sighted students in mainstream society are afraid of their blind peers and do not want to get acquainted with children with visual impairments. According to one of our interviews made in 1992 at Tri Tri primary ordinary school, in which there were 126 interviewees, 48 answered: afraid.
2) Statistical figures:
- Vietnam population's 75 millions
- Blind persons 600.000
- Blind children under age 15: 6.000
- Blind students: 400/6000; 6,6%
- School for disabled children with blind department 9
- School for the blind: 5

How to help blind children afford schooling is important, but how to make them openly accepted in ordinary school is much more important.
II/ CURRENT PROBLEMS:
1) School organizing:
1.1 - Time limited.
- Most students just come to school for just one session (morning, afternoon, even in the evening). Semi boarding schools are not constructed in accordance with the learning requirement of students.
- Teachers must work hard to complete heavy curriculum, so they are hesitated to spend extra time with blind students.

1.2 - Teacher's appraisal system.

- Teachers must reach their legally designated teaching target of how
many excellent, good and average students for a school year to ensure their labor
criteria. If they admitted a blind student, they would hardly assure their teaching
targets that they registered from the beginning of the school year.
1.3 - Low income.
- Low wages make teachers maintain at least one extra job to earn their living and cannot concentrate their energy on their main job.
2) Library:
- There are no libraries for the blind at the national level, there is no division of blind literature as well.

III/ HOW TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION:

During the recent five-year period, the school for the blind in HCM City has been working as a resource centre in the South of Vietnam and we have done the following to partly improve the situation:
I)Teachers in normal schools.
- Invite teachers from mainstream schools to visit our institution in order to witness how visually impaired children learn and host idea exchanging sessions, conduct educational/scientific research studies on the integration of blind students in mainstream schools to stimulate the public recognition and common sense of teachers, parents, and people in community.
- Call teachers from the mainstream schools, voluntarily working to help their sightless students.

Convince education officials to agree to have a more flexible teacher appraisal system for teachers who are working with the integrated education program, offer rewards to them from charity funds at the end of each semester.
- Step by step, blind students are admitted into normal schools. Teachers
4 gradually have changed their attitude toward students with visual disabilities.
Through our recognized scientific education research studies as well as mass-media, the integrated education program has expanded to districts of HCM City and to other provinces in the SouthernVietnam.
2) Students (blind-sighted-students).

- At the beginning sighted students were ashamed and nervous of their blind peers. Thanks to the persuasion of their schools and their class teachers, they have become more open-hearted to make friends with their blind classmates and schoolmates. From that foundation, their friendship and affection have improved, they have become active helpers in class and in extracurricular activities.
- At first blind students were less self-confidence and more shy in front of the public. We have introduced good examples of the blind as well as blind models from Vietnam and foreign countries to speak to them. Gradually, they have changed their minds and have become more optimistic and are fond of learning at the mainstream schools.
3) Parents
- We have held ideas and experience exchange meetings between parents of sighted pupils with blind students and their sighted peers with teachers from the blind school and the mainstream institutions. Parents of sighted children contribute to mobilize their children to follow blind examples.
4) Education officials
- Invite education officials to visit our establishment and to visit the integrated education program in overseas with the cooperation of CBM, CFBT.... the result, we have received a warm and positive cooperation from them.
5) Mass media
- Annually, we organize sport games, music performances at public places to show the achievement of the blind and their potential to the public.
- Present activities of the blind to radio, television, newspapers.

IV/ SUGGESTIONS

1) Open policy of education for all children, law of education and law of disabled people. Recently the Vietnamese Government has enforced the draft decree on people with disabilities.

2) Effort of blind people to overcome policy difficulty and changing social attitude.
3) Establish a national network of library for the visually impaired.

4) A regular program on radio, television, or a feature in a magazine or
newspaper for people with disabilities.

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