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  • Writer's pictureThabo Baseki

Inside the Walls of Learning

A young boy is writing in school
At the age of six years old, I started my primary school learning

School plays a vital role in human-life. Most of the better paying jobs are because of one’s level of education. At six years old, I was taken away from home to live at the Centre for the Blind (Lephoi), in Francistown. You can only imagine the negative effect that distance had on a child at such a tender age. I only went home during school vacations. I never liked the idea of leaving home, especially because my cousins were living with their parents. Frankly speaking, I used to think and believe that not living with my mother meant that she did not love me. Many times, I felt like our caregivers were not treating us justly because we were not their biological children.

A blackboard with formulas for chemical elements
Science - a challenge for many!

I started my primary school learning in 2004 at Phatlhogo Primary School until 2010. This is where I was taught how to read and write using English Braille. It is a tactile type of writing system. In this type of writing style, blind persons use their fingers to read on Braille paper or a refreshable Braille display device. We were also helped to discover our talents, which mine was speaking publicly.

A hand reading a Braille book
Braille is read with fingertips

Additionally, we learned how to walk on our own using a white cane, known as mobility and orientation. Although I never loved being away from home, I’m glad that I went there for such knowledge acquisition. It was worth it! Apart from learning these subjects, we shared classes with our sighted peers for other lessons, which I admire because we weren’t separated from the mainstream learners. Of course, in my class I would have two teachers, one who is there to provide the lesson, and another who is a braille transcriber to aid me understand what is being taught as well as transcribing what I had written in Braille to print so my teacher could be able to mark my script. I completed my Primary School Living Examination (PSLE) with a second class.

In 2011, I moved to Mochudi for my secondary school years. By now I was used to staying far from my family. I did my Form One to Form Three (grade 8 to grade 10) at Linchwe Junior Secondary School. There I did optional subjects including Commerce and Office Procedure, and Religious Education. I then proceeded to Molefe senior secondary school for my Form Four and Five (grade 11 and 12). There I studied Religious Education, Art, Agriculture and History along with other subjects. I always found it a struggle for me to learn Mathematics and Science. During Agriculture projects, I was given a separate arrangement, whereby I had to take an extra exam paper based on garden activities as a substitute to my practical project. I completed my Form Five with 36 points. Both schools did all they could to afford us a measure of comfort and ease of learning for the blind and visually impaired.

By 2015, when I had just completed my Form Five (grade 12), I still had no idea of my next step because I had a lot of options to choose from and study. Many were advising me to take a course on media, reasoning that many blind individuals have succeeded in that course, but that’s not where my passion was. Others were saying I must take a course on sound engineering, reasoning that the blind are often in music industry and have good listening skills. I then decided to take 2016 as my gap year, to think about what I really wanted. Many did not consider that to be a good idea, but I thought, knew, and hoped that it will help me make an informed decision. Still others thought that I had failed my examination and that I did not want to admit and let them know that I did not perform well. Admittedly, at times I used to think that I made an unwise choice, but thankfully my mom and some friends were a source of great support. They never gave up on me, and advised me to think deeply about this since it will determine my future. How grateful I am for those dear people today! A year later, I applied for bachelor's degree in Community Development at Institute of Development Management (IDM) which I successfully completed in 2021.

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