Our goal is to design a low-cost math and science curriculum for blind children in developing countries, using cheaply available materials, with an emphasis on adaptability to local environments at home and in school.
Integration of the blind community is a largely overlooked problem in many developing countries. Especially among blind children of school-going age, the social stigma is that their disability will make it impossible for them to excel academically and socially. Add to this the sore lack of resources and prohibitively high prices of assistive technology, and it is not hard to understand why these children are discouraged from going to school. Few of those that do manage to enter to formal education system go on to pursue higher-level education or enter fields like mathematics and sciences. Therefore, there is an urgent need for science and mathematics curriculums that are accessible to both blind and sighted children, as well as inexpensive alternatives to the high-tech teaching aids that use materials cheaply available in developing countries. Our project aims to develop such a curriculum for children of elementary and middle school age, when skills acquisition is at its peak. This will level the playing ground for blind children and integrate them with their sighted counterparts. In addition to keeping material costs to a minimum, the curriculum will also be designed to be easily adaptable and widely-circulatable, so that children who cannot go to school can also benefit, and teachers or parents with valuable experiences to share can also add to the ever-growing store of knowledge.
Increase accessibility of math and science education for blind students in elementary and middle schools in Lebanon and other developing nations around the world.
Sara Minkara is a Lebanese American and has been legally blind since she was 7 years old. A senior in mathematics and economics who returns to Lebanon each summer, Sara always dreamed of bringing back the tools and skills she learns in the US to the children in Lebanon. She started Camp Rafiqi, a summer camp for blind children, in Tripoli in 2009 and has since expended this into a Boston-based non-profit organization that focuses on continuing and spreading these camps to other developing countries. Her familiarity with the local blind culture is essential in directing and shaping this project.
Lana Awad is a senior in biological engineering. She minors in applied international studies and political science and is very interested in working on global health problems. She co-founded an IDEAS initiative in 2009 to alleviate malnourishment problems. She was also the lead organizer of the Arab Admissions Mentorship Program, which aims to help students in the Arab world get better higher education. She will be helping with setting up the pilot and translating the curriculum into Arabic.
Vanessa Zhang is a senior in mathematics and economics. She has a strong passion for working with children and has volunteered with children and disabled adults on a long-term basis. Her primary focus will be in developing the math curriculum.
John Yazbek is a sophomore studying chemical and biological engineering. He was born and raised in Lebanon and came to the US two years ago to study at MIT. While in Lebanon, he was a volunteer medic in the Lebanese Red Cross. Through his experiences, he has noticed the needs of many people in developing countries can be largely overlooked and that little is being done to change that. He believes our idea is a great chance to induce major changes in the lives of blind people in developing countries.
Nina Jreige is a sophomore at MIT majoring in biological engineering. Since high school, she has enjoyed tutoring and aiding younger students. She will be working on designing and testing educational tools using cost-effective materials to be used in the math and science curricula.
Noor Doukmak is a freshman majoring in mathematics with a strong interest in education. She has enjoyed tutoring students in the areas of math and science in the past, and she hopes to continue to be involved in math instruction in the future. Her work on developing the team’s math curriculum incorporates her enthusiasm for math education and instruction.
Yoo Jin Chung is a senior in architecture from Wellesley, minoring in art history. She has always been keenly interested in working with children, and she has teaching experiences with children in various settings outside of school. She has been involved in developing one-on-one home schooling curricula for children with disabilities. Her interest in designing art that engages all of the senses will provide the backbone of the curriculum. She will also be helping develop the program for the camp instructors' training.
Srikanth Bolla is currently a junior at MIT majoring in management science. He is from a small rural costal village, Sitaramapuram, in southern India and was born blind. He struggled to overcome discrimination from community members, excelling in academics, extracurricular activities, and sports. In spite of rejections from government and high schools, he, with the help of his mentor, managed to study science subjects and became the first student from his state after six months of struggle in getting permission from the state government and education board. Srikanth’s passion towards community service made him join “Lead India 2020,” the second national youth movement in India which aims to motivate and guide rural youth to achieve their career goals and contribute for national development. He was appreciated by the former president of India Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam for his outstanding service in motivating and guiding youth and for his leadership skills in managing people as part of lead India. Determined to help blind people learn about available technology, get educational materials, and receive guidance, Srikanth started a computer training center for visually challenged students in January 2010 and then a talking digital library in July 2011. He is a member of an NGO in India, Samanvai, which is operating projects to serve multi disabled students. [www.samanvai.org] Srikanth is excited to be part of the Low Cost Curriculum for the Blind project and helping in developing accessible science and math curricula which help blind students overcome their challenges in these subjects. He hopes to use his own story and experiences to develop the project and inspire blind students to aim high and work hard to achieve their career goals. Srikanth’s professional goal is to start a technology firm that manufactures assistive technology products for people with multiple disabilities with innovative features and good quality but in an affordable range. He also wants to provide employment to skilled rural youth and disable people. His lifetime ambition is to become the president of India to serve the country.
Empowerment Through Integration
Boston, Lebanon (expanding to Ghana)
ETI provides educational and recreational programs for blind students to become fully integrated and productive members of society. In accomplishing this mission, ETI provides summer camps that include both blind and sighted children and resource libraries that provide adaptive technologies. These programs instill self-confidence and self-sufficiency, and promote equal access to education. ETI will also advocate for job opportunities and disability rights with the government and corporate sectors.
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