22nd July 2019 was a momentous day at Vision-Aid Center Visakhapatnam. Seven visually impaired individual began an exciting journey that would enable, educate and empower them for the sighed world. A generous donor who wanted to honour her parent’s memory created a scholarship program, in the form of an endowment fund, called The Dr Badar and Mariam Maskati Scholarship program. The program began a month ago. Scholars have started settling in, along with the staff, who had quickly designed and implemented the new program. Here is a glance at what a typical day looks like for our Vision-Aid scholars!
About the Program
The 6-month program has been designed to incorporate a balance between several aspects – Computer Literacy, Spoken English, Orientation & Mobility Training, Preparing for competitive examinations for careers in Banking and the Government and more. Fitness programs and recreation are also incorporated into the schedule.
About the students
There are seven Scholars enrolled, and wee selected after a three-level screening test. These Scholars are all blind youth. They have completed graduation and are looking for Skill development in various fields, aspiring to become gainfully employed and independent. Most of them come from nearby towns and villages and are from under-privileged segments of the community.
The training and other skill development programs are conducted Monday to Friday every week for about six months. A typical day begins at 10 am and ends at 5 pm. Students are provided with board and lodging near the centre (costs of which are also covered by the scholarship).
Training in Computers
For most of the scholars, this is the first opportunity to work on a computer. Scholars first undergo training in the Course named Induction Course in Computer Applications (ICCA), which is a 10 hour Course, teaching basic functions of a Computer including, hardware and “touch and feel” of a Computer, Booting of a Computer, Log in process, Set password, Create Files etc. the seven Scholars have since completed this basic training programme and moved on to the next higher level – the Certificate Course in Computer Applications (CCA) where they are now learning basic computer applications and usage. By the end of the Scholarship programme, the Scholars, will reach advanced levels eventually leading to a Diploma in Computer Application (DCA), which will be useful for their placement goals and future careers.
Spoken English training
Scholars undergo daily online training in Spoken English (one to two hours daily) wherein local teachers guide them to an interaction with the online teachers located in Agra and Aligarh. This is a very interactive session between the online teachers and the Scholars. The Scholars are encouraged to seek clarifications and practice speaking. Vision-Aid is also using this program as a pilot to develop a robust spoken English course which may impact many other locations in the future, since the demand for such courses is very high. A periodical assessment is also conducted to determine the level of understanding of the Scholars. Knowledge of Grammar is given due importance and students are advised and encouraged to speak only in English during the class and outside the class as far as possible, throughout the day.
Training for Banking/Govt. exams
3 days a week, the Scholars undergo coaching for the banking and state/national competitive examinations, from a specialised faculty of a local Coaching Institute. This Training will be spread over period of 4 months. The syllabus for the Training program has been designed by a partner coaching Institute which has a track record of equipping students with skills to score high marks and secure jobs in the relevant fields.
Orientation & Mobility
Scholars are taught lessons on Orientation and Mobility Training, which consists of teaching various safe and simple techniques in Orientation and mobility with the help of assistive devices like Cane. New “smart” technology for navigation, including an exciting innovation which uses echo-location, developed by a young Boston based Vision-Aid volunteer, is also being evaluated and will be introduced soon. Some students struggle with even basic navigation tasks, so this is a very valuable skill.
Yoga and Physical fitness
Scholars undergo training in Yoga Classes by a Certified Yoga Specialist. Yoga mats have been provided to the Scholars. This time slot is also utilised to teach some basic aerobic exercises and stretching, etc to the Scholars. All seven scholars are new to Yoga and this is the first time they are getting formal training, and their feedback has been positive.
Periodically, picnics and outings are planned to offer some recreation and fun. Vizag has many nice gardens and beaches to enjoy. Saturday, is a quiet work day – the Scholars are advised to refresh/revise/self-study what they have learnt during that week. Sunday is of course a well-deserved day of rest for all. Periodic breaks are given so the scholars can visit their families at home. Most of them come from small towns and villages near Vizag.
Assessments / Feedback
Regular feedback and assessment / evaluations are planned through the 6-month program and adjustments will be made as needed. Students are given small “success rewards” and other motivational encouragement to keep them enthused and engaged in the sometimes challenging process of learning many new technologies in an intensive study setting.
Thank you Maskati family
We thank our donors the family members and friends of Badar & Mariam Maskati and other donors who heped in funding and creating this very rewarding program.
We wish our scholars a very productive stay and a bright future!