Meet some Namibian students
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” is a very meaningful quote said by Nelson Mandela. Through education we develop new theories, learn important concepts, and most importantly, we are able to effectively communicate with others to hear and share their stories. Over the past three days while we have been at NISE (National Institute for Special Education) we have heard many stories, observed students while at school and learned how the education system in Namibia works. Speaking from my past experiences, I have not interacted at the schools in Wisconsin with many students that have visual impairments, and here nearly 80% of the students have some type of visual impairment, making my first few days very rewarding and filled with new information. Below are a few students that taught me important lessons during my first three days at the school!
When I first met Elly she was curled up in her bunk in the hostile as we were going on a tour of the school. Her beautiful brown eyes popped out and I went to make a little small talk as a group of eight Americans walking around might frighten a little one, especially because I later found out she was not feeling well. After talking to Elly for a few minutes I instantly felt a bond and ensured I would check into her grade two room the next day to make sure she was feeling better. The next day she ended up running up to me before school started wanting a big hug! At that moment I could not even see her face but hugged her tightly back. She stole my heart and now each day I go to school I get at least three big bear hugs from the little cutie. Elly has taught me the power of a hug, smile and she will always take up a space in my heart.
Pollan is 15-years-old and enjoys math, talking about his family and always wears a smile. This is Pollan’s first year at school and is currently in grade two but is making excellent strides. Pollan came to NISE as he is partially blind and was found by a volunteer working in a barn to pass his time. Due to his sight, Pollan’s family did not truly understand what options he had regarding becoming educated, and a volunteer advised the family to have Pollan attend this wonderful school. After talking to Pollan for a few minutes his optimism becomes contagious. I was fortunate enough to work with Pollan, and he surprisingly enjoyed taking an exam that most students would not care much for. From Pollan, I learned the amazing strides being in a classroom for a few months can have on a student, and I am looking forward to checking back in with Pollan to see the progress he has made since the beginning of our trip.
Nancy is 17 and has been at the school for a few years now. This young lady was brought to the school by a volunteer and since that day Nancy has been given an opportunity to gain an education. I had the pleasure of being in her grade seven class one day and was excited all day because I was inspired by her determination to make the school a wonderful place for everyone. From acting as a guide to assist classmates to the next class to answering all of my questions to talking to me about her life, I am beyond excited to see where this young woman ends up because she has overcome so much in her 17 short years and approaches life from a unique perspective, especially because she is attending a school focused on students with visual impairments but does not have any sight deficiencies herself. For now, I will continue to go to Nancy with questions and am trying to convince her to come to Wisconsin for college! By listening to Nancy’s story and viewing her interactions at the school, Nancy taught me to smile each day and helping students in the smallest ways may make all the difference in the life of someone else.
Salma was the first student I worked with that is completely blind. From watching her read brail in her Africans class to playing games in the courtyard, this beautiful young lady has a bright head on her shoulders. She actively participates in class and is often a go to student if a teacher asks a question to the class. One day I wore a scarf and she asked me what color it was. I then had her feel my scarf and by that one act of including her visual impairment into the discussion she could not stop smiling or saying how beautiful my scarf was. In math class I worked with Salma on number lines by drawing imaginary pictures on her hand. While preparing for the trip our group from UW-Stevens Point learned to uses a brail writer, how to read brail, and experimented on the brail writer by writing, “Hi my name is ________” to bring with us to the school. I had Salma read my little blurb in brail and she could not have been more excited. One important aspect I will always remember is when Salma told me I have the spirit of a teacher after working with me for such a short time. Each day I make an effort to provide her with words of encouragement as well, especially because a few words of positivity have the power to leave a lifelong mark.
These are four outstanding students of the 117 that currently attend NISE, and I am looking forward to learning mores stories and incorporating all that I have learned into my teaching!
Katie Morici, an elementary education and special education major, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.