India is now home to the world’s largest number of blind people. In addition, nearly 30,000 blind people are added every year. Cataract is the primary cause for blindness in India. Every year approximately three million people develop cataract in India but the worst part is that almost half of these cases are curable, which when left unattended translates to complete or partial blindness. Meanwhile there is an acute shortage of donated eyes in India and nearly 60% of the eyes donated are wasted or left unused.
Another neglected aspect is education among blind children. It is estimated that a meagre 5% of the total population of blind children in India receives education. Blind schools are important institutions in imparting education among the visually impaired children in India.
Over the years, studies in child development, sociology and special education have led to the conclusion that blind children grow, flourish and achieve greater self and social fulfillment by being nurtured in the least restrictive environment. Through local education, supported by well-prepared specialists in education of the blind, these children can enjoy everyday common experiences essential to the development of a keen awareness of the world around them.
The way ahead lays within the blind school – the institution that allows for the hope filled possibility of education and rehabilitation for children. It is the only place where we can enable them to blend into an everyday life of dignity and self sufficiency.
A visually impaired student walks down a flight of stairs, from the boy’s hostel, to attend the morning prayer at a blind school in Kolkata.
Study material in Braille. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Brihaspati Mahato, a humanities student, poses for a portrait. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Visually impaired students during a jam session at a blind school in Calcutta. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Students listening to radio in their dormitory. Radio is the most popular media for news dissemination amongst the visually impaired. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Girl students share a light moment after a class. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
A student prepares himself in the morning for his daily classes. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Reema Khatun, an albino student, grooms herself during recess. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Reema’s favorite pair of shoes. She loves the red colour. There are different stages of blindness. In the earlier stages of impartial vision, colours can be recognised. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Reema poses for a portrait. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Siblings wait for their parents to take them home from school. Students from out of town stay in the hostels, which are well-equipped for hosting the visually impaired. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Students during a recess session. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
A student reacts to light after coming out of a class. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Most blind schools provide mid-day meals for their students. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Students rehearse for a stage performance for their annual function. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
An ex student at a cardboard manufacturing workshop. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
A student waits for her friends to join her for a class. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee
Portrait of a student as she retires for the day after school hours. Credit: Sutirtha Chatterjee