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FEATURE STORY

Visually Impaired Find Light of Knowledge at School for the Blind

November 24, 2015


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Tamana and the other blind students are determined to work hard to improve their chances for employment and self reliance.

Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

Story Highlights
  • The Vocational High School for the Blind is enabling people with visual impairment to pursue higher education and fulfill their ambition to have a vocation and contribute to society.
  • The school is supported by the Afghanistan Second Skills Development Project, implemented by the Ministry of Education with support by the World Bank.
  • The project focuses on providing incentives to schools and institutes offering formal Technical and Vocational Education and Training programs, while simultaneously strengthening the institutional system as a whole.

KABUL CITY – Her hands move slowly over the keyboard as she starts typing during computer class. “We are students at the High School for the Blind,” types Tamana Niazi in English on the computer screen. Nineteen-year-old Tamana was born blind. Although she cannot see, Tamana possesses the dedication to work hard so that she does not end up being a burden for her family and society.

The support she receives from her family as well as from the Vocational High School for the Blind enables her to attend school. Together with her four classmates in Grade 11, she practices MS Word in the school’s computer lab. “Although it is more difficult for persons with blindness to learn computer skills, I am determined to do it because I want to become a teacher after I finish my studies,” Tamana says.

The high school for the blind is the only public school in the nation that provides an opportunity to blind and visually impaired individuals to study in a conducive learning environment with the requisite teaching material and equipment.  The school has three departments—vocational skill development, general education, and Islamic education—structured on a 12-grade teaching system.

Currently, more than 170 students, 65 of whom are girls, are studying at the school. The majority of the students have complete blindness while a small number have impaired vision, which allows them to see only a short distance.

Some of the high school graduates have enrolled at public universities after successfully passing the Kankor (university entrance) exam, majoring in subjects such as law, journalism, literature, and psychology. “Since 2012, 16 students have graduated from the vocational school,” says Khoja Abdul Kabir Sediqi, the school principal.

Visually impaired students sit for a special Kankor exam with 100 multiple choice questions. An assistant reads the questions and choices aloud to the student, who answers orally. The assistant then circles the given answers on the exam sheet.

Nasir Ahmad, 24, one of the high school graduates who passed the Kankor exam, is studying psychology of the blind at the Burhanuddin Rabbani University, a public institution. “I am not a blind person anymore. I have enlightened myself with the light of knowledge and awareness,” he says. “In the future, I want to become a teacher and serve other blind people.” He manages as well as any other student by recording the lectures with a sound recorder and turning the study material into Braille.

Salima, 21, another graduate from the school, is now a law and political science student at Kabul University. To prepare for Kabul University’s entrance exam, she and her classmates listened to old exam questions and answers. The National Publications Department, which has been equipped and funded by the World Bank, recorded the old exam sheets in audio. The students listened regularly to the recordings and practiced answering the questions. This method helped them to answer the questions correctly during the actual exams.

 “In high school, we studied as a group because we all had the same problem,” says Salima. “At the end, those group studies helped us a lot in passing the university’s entrance exam.” 


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The Vocational High School for the blind operates under the Office of the Deputy Minister for Technical and Vocational Training at the Ministry of Education.

Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

" I am not a blind person anymore. I have enlightened myself with the light of knowledge and awareness.  "

Nasir Ahmad

Graduate, Vocational High School of the Blind

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The students are able to develop various skills to function sufficiently and get involved in recreation activities.

Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

The Vocational High School for the Blind, established in 1964, is located in Darul-Aman in western Kabul. As the only vocational school for people with visual impairment in Afghanistan, it operates under the Office of the Deputy Minister for Technical and Vocational Education Training at the Ministry of Education. The Afghanistan Skills Development Project (ASDP), implemented by the ministry, provided support to the school in 2012 and enabled it to upgrade its facilities and services.

ASDP, which closed on June 30, 2014, aimed to build a high quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system and was financed by the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). The World Bank is continuing its support to the TVET system through the Afghanistan Second Skills Development Project (ASDP II), which also provides funding to the school for the blind. ASDP II continues to build Afghanistan’s TVET system, and focuses on providing incentives to schools and institutes offering formal TVET programs through a challenge fund scheme, while simultaneously strengthening the institutional system as a whole.

Building teacher capacity

Through the ASDP program, the school for the blind has upgraded its facilities by renovating its building, purchasing new furniture and stationery, and equipping itself with Braille equipment. The new equipment and Internet service have made studying easier and more pleasant for students.

All the computers at the school are equipped with JAWS (Job Access With Speech) software, which is a computer screen reader program that allows visually impaired users to access content either with a text-to-speech output or by a refreshable braille display. Students use books that are reprinted in Braille—a tactile system with raised dots that allows the blind to read. ASDP support will soon allow the school to print books in Braille, according to Naqibullah Shinwari, Blind School Coordinator.

ASDP funding also supports capacity building initiatives for the teachers at the school. There are currently 48 teachers and, like their students, most of them are blind or visually impaired. “Until the end of ASDP II, which will run through 2018, we will work to enhance teachers’ capacity so that we can upgrade the high school to a higher education institute,” says Naqibullah.

The school is gaining in popularity as a result of its upgraded facilities and has enrolled 36 new students this year. “Ever since the school has been supported by the Ministry of Education with support from the World Bank, it has been able to gain further trust. Now people trust the school more than ever,” says Principal Khoja Abdul Kabir Sediqi.


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