"My students' progress is my motivation, and it is priceless," says Sami. As a Braille teacher, she does not just solve the learning puzzle for her students, she reaches out to anyone who wants to learn Braille.
Sami is no ordinary teacher in Cameroon. She has made it her life's work to teach Braille to children who are blind or have visual impairments, their classmates, and their families.
The 32-year-old teaches Year One at PROMHANDICAM, an inclusive school supported by CBM in Yaoundé, Cameroon. She believes that her students with visual impairments can only receive an all-inclusive education if they can interact and learn with their classmates fully. Their parents also need to know Braille to help them with homework.
A commitment to Inclusion
Therefore, Sami teaches Braille to all the students in her class while doing individual work with those who are blind. In this way, she teaches them the virtues and practice of inclusion to break the cycle of stigma and discrimination. What makes her exceptional is that she offers free classes to parents of children with visual impairments.
"If I only teach Braille to blind students, it will not help them much in life if they cannot communicate with their peers or do homework with their parents. So I made a personal commitment to teaching Braille to all students in my class, whether they are blind or sighted, and to their parents," says Sami.
This World Teachers' Day (October 5), CBM celebrates the commitment of teachers like Sami to inclusion. She embodies the concept of inclusive education, which respects the rights of all learners. People with diverse learning needs, including those with disabilities, must be actively included in the mainstream education system and receive individually tailored support when needed.
Sian Tesni, Global Advisor, Inclusive Education at CBM, explains: "Teachers have a huge impact on our lives. We all remember that one teacher who helped us grow or who shook our confidence. As Sami's story shows, teachers who embrace diversity and use flexible teaching methods have the potential to create a diverse world where differences are celebrated. Inclusive education is about good teaching."
The Global Burden of Education Exclusion
According to UNICEF, there are 240 million children with disabilities worldwide. They are among those less likely to attend or complete school. Sadly, they are more likely to be illiterate than children without disabilities. Of those who do attend school, many do not complete all seven grades because most schools are not equipped for inclusive learning.
In countries like Cameroon, support for persons with disabilities in schools is generally poor. There is a lack of sign language training and interpretation, teaching materials in multiple formats such as Braille, assistive technology, and accessibility to school buildings.
Very often, specialist teachers are demotivated because they are poorly paid, or their status is not appreciated. In some societies, prejudice against persons with disabilities forces some parents not to enrol their children in school because they believe they cannot learn.
How Sami's Teaching Journey Started
Sami's desire for inclusive education was shaped by these experiences. She enrolled in PROMHANDICAM to learn Braille to better communicate with her cousin, who is blind.
She then attended a training school to gain a teaching qualification. She returned to PROMHANDICAM as a full-time teacher. She tutors parents in the evenings and on weekends.
One parent, Alama, says: "Without Madam Sami's efforts and sacrifices, most parents would be lost. She encourages and advises us in supporting our children with visual impairments. My daughter has been here a few months and the impact this school has had on her is immeasurable."
Thanks to the work of teachers like her and the support of CBM, PROMHANDICAM can cater to the diverse needs of its students. CBM also contributes to the salaries of teachers like Sami. Headmaster Pierre acknowledges that Sami enriches the educational experience at the school.
It is very satisfying to see my visually impaired or blind children become more independent and integrate well into the class. It is reassuring to know that this learning does not falter at home because the parents continue to teach and support them. Their progress is my motivation, and it is priceless.
A CBM report Learning from a Crisis recommends greater involvement of parents and caregivers in the design of inclusive education. In future, curricula and extracurricular activities, face-to-face and remote support and care should be developed in close collaboration with families to fully understand the diverse needs of learners.