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Syd Askew Centre stays relevant

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Over the years, Optima has been blessed with many generous donors who have made a priceless contribution to the SANCB. One such example is the family behind the Syd Askew Centre at our Optima College, where students receive Call Centre and Introduction to Computers training.

The centre was as funded by Syd Askew’s wife Jeanette in memory of her late husband. Then in 2009, she paid for upgrades which included installing tactile and textured surfaces as well as textured rubber flooring.

You can imagine our delight when a sponsorship from a trust by the late Jeanette Luttig in memory of Syd made it possible to pay for new computers and software last year.

Since its inception the Syd Askew Centre has trained in excess of 400 visually impaired persons in basic and advanced computer literacy. This centre has also been utilised for training in contact centre and support (call centre training).

We’d like to express our sincere gratitude to Jeanette and other generous donors who have helped to ensure that Optima College continues to equip learners to take their place in society. Your investment will pay dividends in the lives of students for years to come. Thank you!
 

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Keeping on top of things

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Most Optima students live in the college hostel while they’re studying. This allows them to get to know their peers better, while learning daily living skills in a safe environment.

But as any homeowner knows, there’s always maintenance to do! We recently completed renovations to the hostel to accommodate more students.

Thanks to everyone who made this possible! The next priorities are to repair tiled floors and to fix the lift. Optima’s band and speaking group have also put forward a wish list: they’d love a new sound system. This will help them develop their diverse talents and skills.

We’d be grateful for any assistance. Thank you!
 

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A ball to remember

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Optima students never let 14 February pass by quietly.

This year, they pulled out all the stops and organised a heart- warming Valentine’s ball, complete with decorations, live music by the college band Tears of Joy, and guest speakers. Students also conveyed messages and presented gifts to their loved ones.

Thank you to everyone involved in making this engaging event possible.
 

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Meet a few of our Optima students

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Photo caption: Top, from left to right: Bongi, Vusi and Christina; bottom, from left to right: Meagan and Thembe

 

My name’s Bongi

Bongiwe Skota (32) lives in Pretoria with her husband and two teenage children. She was born near-sighted but her vision deteriorated after having suffered retinal detachment in her left eye in 2014 and, in 2016, she abruptly lost the sight in her right eye while busy with her postgraduate certificate in education.

Bongi enrolled for Introduction to Computers this year, which will enable her to continue her studies, and then resume her academic career, either in psychology, research or education. “Losing my sight was not the end of the world. I’m still going very far,” she says.

 

I’m Vusi

Vusi Mabuza (45) is from Witbank. This single father is one of our more mature students and is a public relations officer at the Development Bank of Southern Africa. He’s enrolled in the Introduction to Computers course. Although he’s independent and can already do tasks like ironing, he’s enjoying the orientation and mobility and activities of daily living training at Optima, as he’s trying to expand his white cane and cooking skills.

 

Hi, I’m Christina

Christina Segole (46) attended Optima last year, when she took study leave from her job as an English teacher. She’s partially sighted due to glaucoma.

Christina loved attending Optima and interacting and sharing stories with other visually impaired persons.

This is a place where we are taught to be independent. What I liked most was learning braille, and I look forward to finding a job at a school for visually impaired learners, where I can teach children subjects in braille.

Christina’s advice to Optima students is to work hard at improving their independence skills and confidence, so that they can go on to become productive members of society.

When you go out into the real world, your character and personality are the things that determine your success.”

 

Hi, I’m Meagan

Meagan Chauke (24) is from Pretoria East and is a day student at Optima. She lost most of her sight three years ago, when she suffered Intracranial Hypertension while studying political science through Unisa. She’s now only able to discern light, shadows and blurry shapes.

She enrolled in Introduction to Computers and hopes to return to Unisa and eventually become a South African ambassador. Meagan enjoys the cooking lessons in the orientation and mobility classes most.

She has a zest for life and is passionate about helping fellow human beings. Meagan and fellow student Sesethu started Loud Communicators, a public speaking group at Optima, to give students a platform to express themselves, build their self-esteem and showcase their talents.

 

I’m Thembe

Thembekile Spengane (25) is a dynamic young woman from Umtata. She matriculated from Efata School for the Blind and Deaf in 2015 and is studying Introduction to Computers.

Thembekile cherishes the new friends that she’s made at Optima, and appreciates the way her self- confidence has grown, particularly since joining the Tears of Joy band and the Loud Communicators public speaking group.

She enjoys orientation and mobility training, and is looking forward to learning how to iron her clothes. After completing the computer course, she’d like to enrol for Call Centre and Support and go on to become a call centre agent.

 

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Making the most of a golden opportunity

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Photo caption: Sesethu Xabanisa believes in facing his challenges head on

Can you imagine writing an exam without being able to read the questions or write down your answers?

23-year-old Sesethu Xabanisa had to do just that, when he was studying for a Business Management Diploma at a college in Johannesburg. The college provided him with a “scribe” to read the questions and write down his answers.

The solution was far from practical – but it didn’t stop Sesethu from passing accounting with a distinction in 2013!

This courageous young man believes in facing challenges head on, no matter how daunting.

He also knows how important it is to grab golden opportunities. So when he was accepted into Optima College, he jumped at it.

He signed up for Introduction to Computers and Braille Literacy, and is learning to use important assistive technology like JAWS and other screen- reading software.

He’s joined a crop of versatile, ambitious visually impaired persons at Optima, who are developing the skills they need to accomplish their goals.

After Optima, I’d like to complete my Business Management Diploma. I believe we should all own our uniqueness. Even if you’re not what society views as ‘normal’, we should all be comfortable with, and proud of, ourselves,” he says.

Optima numbers have increased in recent years and, with your continued support, we’ll train at least 90 students in 2017.

Thank you for playing a role in this great achievement!
 

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Education for visually impaired children in crisis

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Children with visual impairments, just like any other pupils, have a right to quality basic education. So why is it that in South Africa, eight out of 10 visually impaired children aren’t in school?

And of the two out of 10 children who are in special needs schools, most are not receiving a quality education.

If nothing changes, in a few years we may have more than 1 million blind youth of school leaving age who’ve been denied the opportunity to reach their potential, to live independent lives and to maintain a sustainable livelihood.

This dire state of education was at the heart of discussions at The Principal’s Forum, which was hosted by the SANCB at Optima College in April.

Sponsored by M-TEK, the forum was attended by the principals of SA’s 22 special schools for visually impaired children. These principals are urgently seeking to long-term solutions to the desperate state of education for visually impaired learners.

Their goal is to increase the capacity and ability of schools to meet the needs of visually impaired children from early developmental stages all the way through to matric, and in preparation for further education and the workplace.

A number of key objectives have been identified: to improve the efficacy in learning and teaching; raise the matric pass rate; give larger numbers of blind and partially sighted persons access to tertiary education; and grow employment among visually impaired persons.

With the help of our supporters, the SANCB hopes to make The Principal’s Forum an annual event. Because we urgently need to roll back the numbers and help 10 out of 10 blind children access quality education.
 

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A dream come true

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Jimmy Kganyago and Kgaugelo Kalane from Mamelodi experienced the perseverance that only a young child can display when they have their heart on something, when their 6-year old son Masego started dreaming of owning a Perkins Brailler.


Jimmy and Kgaugelo are familiar with Council, from when they came to get tactile toys for Masego (who is blind due to retinopathy) when he was younger. They therefore knew exactly where to go look for his brailler. However, the cost of this crucial assistive device was standing in the way of Masego and his dream.


Fortunately, an anonymous donor sponsored a Perkins Brailler and the Resource Centre was able to provide one to this beautiful family free of charge. Masego, a grade 1 pupil at Prinshof School was over the moon when he came to collect his brailler recently. He could not wait to load paper into it and try it out. He immediately started writing numbers, his favourite subject.


Resource Centre Manager, Hanif Kruger gave Masego and his parents some pointers on how to look after the brailler, and hopefully the device can take him a long way towards his dream of becoming a doctor.
 

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Good news for our Resource Centre clients!

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It is a well-known fact that prices of assistive devices vary in accordance with the exchange rate. Most of the products which are crucial for visually impaired persons to live independent lives, are imported from overseas, which increases the prices, making it very difficult for our constituency to afford some products. High unemployment rates, particularly in rural areas, exacerbate the situation.

The SANCB realised that something needed to be done to make assistive devices more accessible to the blind and partially sighted persons that we serve. The National Management Committee held a meeting and a number of essential products, such as coin selectors, white canes and liquid level indicators were identified and our Resource Centre prices on a number of products will be drastically reduced effective 1 April 2017. Please click here for the list of items.

*Please note that these reduced prices are only applicable to individual clients, and may still be subject to change according to fluctuations in the Rand’s exchange rate with other currencies.

Call the Resource Centre on 012 452 3811 or e-mail resource@sancb.org.za for enquiries and quotations.
 


 

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A Child's Human Right ...

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... to Education

South Africa celebrated Human Rights Day on 21 March 2017. Although we have come a long way as a country, some fundamental rights as stipulated in our constitution have not yet been fulfilled.

Of an estimated 18 750 000 children in South Africa, it is estimated that around 11.2% have some form of a disability. Only around 2 out of 10 visually impaired children are reported to currently be admitted to school, compared to the ratio of children without disabilities which stands at 8:10. Many of those who are attending school, do not receive the support and reasonable accommodation which would allow for them to gain a quality education.

This short animated video illustrates the backlog in the education of visually impaired children's education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without a proper education, these children cannot gain knowledge and skills to prepare them for employment. If this backlog is not addressed now, in a few years we may potentially have more than 1 million persons of school leaving age who have been denied the opportunity to reach their potential, to live independent lives and to maintain a sustainable livelihood.

As part of our mandate, the SANCB has created the Leave No Child Behind campaign, of which the objective is to ensure that all blind and partially sighted children are identified and admitted to school at an early age. We aim to do this through advocacy and monitoring of compulsory registration of visually impaired children in accessible learning centers across South Africa. The campaign will also ensure that there are adequate learning materials and assistive devices such as Braille textbooks and Perkins Braillers in these centers.

If you would like to support this campaign, please contact our Fund Development Officer on 012 452 3811 or send an e-mail to fdo1@sancb.org.za.

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SASSA Meets With Stakeholders

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Council was represented at an event earlier today, 17 March 2017, where the Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, met with stakeholders at the the Premier Hotel at Oliver Tambo Airport. Minister  Dlamini opened the stakeholder engagement by apologising to South Africans for the issues pertaining to the payment of grants. She said that the Constitutional Court had just ruled that her office should continue using Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) for twelve months. During this time another entity is to be identified and appointed to take over thereafter.

The Minister said that it was important for South Africans to know that her office respects the Constitutional Court and its decision on the matter. Minister Dlamini said that she had been given the responsibility to account to the Constitutional Court. She told the audience that her office is not happy about the Black Sash issue and that a ministerial task team is looking into options in respect of payments to be made by SASSA.

There are currently 10 000 payment points in the country. According to the Minister, although part of the data is with CPS and another with Government, all data is the property of Government. A 24-hour call centre had been set up and is currently effective. Additionally, a biometric system will be implemented for grant recipients using CPS as the service provider. She said that those recipients who get paid at SASSA pay points, will not receive their payments on 1 April because it falls on a Saturday, and their payments will only be processed on Monday, 3 April at the pay points. However, recipients whose grants are paid into bank accounts will definitely receive them on 1 April 2017.

The Minister said that Government wishes to utilise PostBank for all  Government financial transactions in the future, including SASSA payments .PostBank has 2700 outlets, mainly in urban areas. 

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