LIFE

Touch and learn with Braille cubes

THINGS ARE looking up for children with vision defects. They no longer need to wait until they turn six to go to school. If Vidya Vrikshah, a city-based NGO, has its way, soon these children will go to the village panchayat schools and their teachers will not find teaching these children a challenge.

"Often, in villages the blind child wastes away because the family is unable to send him/her to school. Village panchayat schools do not admit these children because they do not have qualified teachers to instruct them," says N. Krishnaswamy, managing trustee, Vidya Vrikshah.

For an estimated four million blind children in the country today, there are not enough schools.

This initiative would light up the world for all those children hitherto confined to a world of loneliness and darkness.

In Braille, raised dots form a certain pattern for each letter of the alphabet. There are 63 codes for the English language. Similar codes, derived for all Indian languages, have been used in the Vasantha Braille Teacher Cube evolved by Vidya Vrikshah. For example, the plain face of the cube means space and one embossed dot on the top left of the cube denotes the first letter of the alphabet.

The challenge is to teach the mother. If the mother is educated, then half the battle is won. "It does not take more than half an hour to learn to work with this cube. A child will memorise the letters in a day or two," Krishnaswamy explains.

It is not just the alphabet and numbers that a child will learn. Once the child has mastered the cube, the mother will be given a box of cubes so that she can teach the child to form words. "The mother will sit the child on her lap and teach. It is like playing with building blocks. By the time the child is six years old, she/he will be reading Braille storybooks in the native language," he says.

" Even the panchayat school teachers can be taught and then the child can be sent to the village school."

This cube, patterned on the Rubik's Cube, was sent to 200 blind schools in the country. The feedback has been encouraging, Krishnaswamy adds.

Since education is not complete with merely teaching a child the alphabet, the organisation has plans to launch magazines in Indian languages.

Members of Vidya Vrikshah will also stage a demonstration of all the projects on December 28.

By Sujatha R.

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