Sightsavers Dolphin Pen, making a difference in Africa
The Dolphin Pen has even acquired a new name courtesy of the Kenyan students,
29th Nov, 2007
Assistive Technology Project is launched in Kenya:
It is 24th August 2007 and all are headed for Kenyatta University, not for a graduation ceremony this time, but to launch an Assistive Technology for Visually Impaired Learners pilot project in Kenya. This is a project working towards advancement of assistive technology for the blind and low vision learners in secondary and tertiary institutions level using what has since been nicknamed “Mother Dolphin Pen”.
The pilot project targets eight institutions; one university, three teachers training colleges and four secondary schools integrating a high number of learners with visual impairments. The number of students targeted during the 3 year research period is 200 and 100 have just finalized their training.
The project was conceptualized by SightSavers last year, approved by the Ministry of Education while DFID approved funding of approximately £ 70,000.
The project’s overall goal is to assess the extent to which assistive technology could enhance:
- Accessibility of Educational Materials for the Blind and Low Vision Learners.
- Students’ academic performance both in terms of improved grades and diversification of subjects.
- Students’ chances of transiting to the world of employment.
- It shall also assess the extent to which the technology could reduce the cost of providing education to the blind and low vision students.
Through the funding from DFID, the students have received refurbished computers procured from Computer Aid International. They have also undergone training in basic computer skills and using the Dolphin Pen software. The launch of the project on the 24th August marked the end of training in the tertiary institutions.
Wait a minute, how long did it take you to acquire computer skills?... despite not having their sight, it took these students only three weeks to be introduced to computers, keyboard layout, dolphin pen for visual and speech users, document reader, savings and formatting etc. It did not matter to them that they could not go for their August holidays and they had to sit for more than 12 hours per day 7 days a week, to them this was too small a price to pay. During the launch the trainees proved that this was not in vain at all by demonstrating what they could do using the Dolphin pen. It is during this event that the pen acquired a new name “Mama Dolphin”. This new name is owing to the significance and the impact they feel it will have on a VI learner’s life. They echoed the fact that this will not only enable them “fieka mitihani” (meaning clear their exams with ease) but also increase their chances of employment.
This self drive could be what made the chief guest a Senior Director of Education representing the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education to announce the Ministry’s commitment to replicate the project in other institutions once successful. He also challenged institutions of higher learning to increase their focus on research initiatives and approach the Ministry with interesting proposals and hailed SSI for such a great initiative.
In conclusion, we as SSI Kenya are proud of the achievements and the interest this project has drawn within the education circles. We on the other hand recognize there are many challenges ahead as not only is the project new, but also the technology itself. We therefore have to keep reminding everybody that this is a research oriented project and the success or otherwise of the same can only be determined after the three years.
But the faces of the students below and the poem by a student from Asumbi Teachers College illustrate the current feelings of the students.
Poem: Dolphin Pen
Some stories can be left untold
Some words unspoken
Some jokes Un cracked
Some mistakes uncorrected
Some feelings unexpressed
But you cant be left unmentioned
Life has been very tight
To see the colors which are dull and bright
Nor to see the daily moonlight and sunshine
You are our pride
You have brought us delight
We are now feeling alright
They say time is a season
They say time will heal
And now time and season
Has changed the way we feel
Yes! We are proud of our season
That our vision has blossomed
Anthony Karanja + the Kenya CO
With the aid of the Dolphin pen
We are now computer literate
We will never look desperate
Its been extra pleasure
Giving us this rare exposure
With which nothing we can measure
In our ears you will always be a treasure
Nobody knows the smiles we shall be through except you
Helping us to insist so as to exist
Your efforts have borne reasonable fruits
And our success is your uplift
Nothing compares to your love and goodness
God bless you for your kind heart and concern
by Happykell Mangu
Trainee , and a VI student ,