Nearly 200 years after the birth of Louis Braille, the alphabet of raised dots he created, commonly known as Braille, is still in regular use by 150m blind people around the world. Now the system is also widely used in Cambodia and the government has announced it will soon become available in every school nationwide
By Yos Katank
Krousar Thmey (KT) offers educational programmes to blind and deaf people. According to the organisation, 2.2% of the population suffers from a disability and there are currently around 20,000 blind students studying in both primary and high schools. These schools provide a specialised educational programme that is compatible with the national education curriculum.
“Lessons are taught through Braille in Khmer alphabets,” says Neang Phalla, director of Chbar Ampov School for the Blind adding Braille was first introduced to Cambodians in the refugee camps along the Cambodian-Thai border. “Talking books are in line with national text books, which are also printed in Braille.” Developing Braille textbooks is a time-consuming process, and they have to be updated with changes stipulated by the ministry of education. “Each national textbook equals two to four books in Braille, but we have only three blind people who can make the books,” says Strens Julien, KT’s communication officer.
In the last three years, for the first time in Cambodian history, three young blind students successfully passed their final high school exams. While some of these students have chosen to continue their higher education, mainly in English or Khmer literature, others have opted to become musicians or teachers in KT’s schools for the blind. This year, eight blind students have been awarded university scholarships. “It’s a big challenge, we would like to give more blind and deaf people educational opportunities,” says Strens. “In some rural areas, we have regular specialised classes for deaf and blind in public schools, but we need to collect teachers from those public schools for training first.”
The film Le Braille au Cambodge is showing at the French Cultural Centre, October 22 at 7pm.