Letter from Bhutan

As we come to the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, the end of 2011 marks the end of the ICT development project, yet a beginning for the National Institute for the Visually Impaired (NIVI) and the Ministry of Education. On the in-service ICT course for adults this month we have nine visually impaired candidates. All of them are very keen in pursuing their ICT skills. Perhaps the seniors might have told them how very hard it is, be it in studies or in the job market, without computer skills.

Today, as I sit and try to unfold the pictures of the past, deep within my heart I feel so grateful to all of you for making our dreams come true. Let us think back a while to 2005, when you came with a preliminary project proposal there was just one PC in the office, no Internet connection and no one who ever knew what a computer was. Nobody would have ever dreamt of a highly standard, yet so firm computer literacy programme at the Institute. Nobody had ever imagined that the visually impaired children at the Institute would be able to write and submit assignments, class works and project works on time on a printed copy. How many teachers would have been frustrated at not being able to evaluate their own pupils who were unable to read the print materials. At the same time, how many students would have felt so bad for not being able to participate equally in the classes as well as to the subject teachers. Five years on today we have a fully equipped computer room. The resource group had indeed worked hard, yet the most important was the financial support and the technical support provided.

The project has provided 5 laptops to the Jigme Sherubling High School, 39 laptops to visually impaired adults, and 11 resource persons received a laptop each, in total 51 laptops and 15 computers at the computer centre. Back in 2009 when we conducted the first in-service course, Pema Chhogyel commented that had this project started a long time back, he would have scored higher in his degree course. He advised the trainees to make the best use of the training. A decade ago, how many visually impaired would have thought that they would own a laptop and would be able to participate equally, be it in studies or in the job scenario?

While all the staff at MediaLT were vigorously involved in developing and improving the skills of our Institute, Cathy Kalvenes was a great asset for NIVI. She has not only taught the resource core group for six months in Norway, but also guided through Office 2007 and supported and guided for developing and maintaining the web site. Every year when the computer training was conducted, the stories of the past would be revealed, unfolding the pictures of the past and reinforcing to build a better future and above all thanking MediaLT, NORAD and the Norwegian Mission for the wonderful job they have done within the five years of time.

This project, the so called ICT project, I understand as the torch bearer to many successes, be it at a personal level or amongst the various organizations. Had this project not started, Pema Chhogyel would not be a great successful leader in Special Education at the Ministry of Education; nor would Kelzang Dorji have become a distinguished renowned achiever of a distance education programme. None of the officials be it in the Ministry and other organizations would ever have believed that blind people can make use of a computer and can work equally. In the ICT handbook development and other workshops, seeing the visually impaired efficiently using the laptop, they not only marvelled but took to a great surprise. The seed to the birth of the Disabled Peoples Association of Bhutan was sown by the ICT project. The users network proved to be so powerful a tool, keeping the visually impaired alumni members together, as if discussing in a single locked room. None of us had ever imagined that this network would grow stronger day by day. Even the founding father of the Institute, Mr. Einar Kippenes, would never have imagined the web site of the Institute. Today this is serving as a platform for knowledge and information.

While I had dreamt so many of these achievements, never did I know that these dreams of mine would come true. Quite often, I thought that those were crazy dreams, dreams that fools would dream. And I know for sure, that many dreams of the dreamers do not come true. You shared my dreams and made these dreams come to a reality. As the time comes nearer to the end of my career in one and half decades from now, I shall retire from my job with full satisfaction, and shall have stories to tell to my grandchildren of the great job that NORAD, the Norwegian Mission and MediaiLT had done for the visually impaired people of Bhutan. As we come to the end of the project, may I take of my hat and sincerely thank MediaLT, NORAD and the Norwegian Mission for hearing our voice, for building a better road for the future and above all for answering our prayers. You have taught us to stand on our own feet, perhaps it is now our responsibility to learn to walk and run efficiently. You have taught us to feed ourselves. Perhaps now it is our responsibility to nurture and nourish ourselves. In generations from now, those whose faces we may never see, whose names we may never learn, will have plenty of stories to read; the hard times the visually impaired had in the early 60’s and how the school for the Blind established the difficulties they had in pursuing education, and how the ICT project intervened. And all the children will sing echoing from Sakten in the North-east to South-west Sipsu and from the North-west mountain range of Dongkala to the plain of south-east Dipham, ringing in every valley and mountain, singing the song of happiness and achievements. In the still night, as the world sleeps, let me fold my hands and pray God that the Norwegian Mission, NORAD, MediaLT and all others who were involved in the project may live with peace, prosperity and happiness. May God bless you all.

- Kuenga Chhoegyel, January 2012
Initiator of the ICT development project, and teacher at the Institute for the Visually Impaired in Khaling, Bhutan.


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