The first school quarter of every year is a crucial time for independence training at schools for the blind, as the new 5 – 6-year-olds who are blind or partially sighted, arrive in this big strange new place called boarding school.
We regularly train at about eight schools for the blind who do not have any Orientation and Mobility Practitioners on staff.
Here is Kidibone’s account of five of the Grade R and Grade 1 children whom she trained. One of the skills she taught them was not only to climb steps on their own, but to learn to trust themselves.
Kidibone tells how scared and unsure the five children initially were. Going up the steps, they wanted to sit on every next step they climbed. “So” says Kidi, “slowly, I took them one by one during those first lessons, taking them by the hand: one hand on the railing and one little hand holding mine. In their minds: they did a step and sat down, as if a step is for sitting on”… It took some convincing and a lot of patience from Kidi to keep the children on their feet step by step.
Towards the end of the programme, all five of them could walk up and down a full set of stairs on their own, with Kidi following behind. And in the process, they would call her name to try and hear where she was and to make sure that she was not up close. And then hearing that she was up close, the request ‘Mam Kidi, you don’t have to stand close by, please go wait for us at the bottom’. And so, that which was intimidating and scary initially, became a game of confidence for them. Says Kidi, “they knew that they were safe, because they were aware of the dangers. They found a joy on the stairs, going up and down on their own and with such confidence”.