10 visually impaired students on IT course in Khaling

Bhutanese teachers are now teaching adults to use technology! The first job-orientated course is now underway at the school for the blind, and MediaLT is also there, first and foremost to help when problems arise.

Story by: Morten Tollefsen - 20.01.2009

Trond Ausland and Bjørn Gulbrandsen got on the plane on January 13th 2009. Now they are in Khaling assisting with the implementation of the data course. Einar Kippenes is traveling with them. In addition to knowing the language and culture, it was Einar who started the school for the blind. Einar has primary responsibility for contact with the authorities.

I have also driven from Thimphu to Khaling. It was quite an experience: informative, scary, difficult and very different from the tarred roads in Oslo.

Trond says this about the car journey:

"The drive was first and foremost very long. The roads were actually not as bad as we had thought, but this may have had something to do with the season, little rain, etc. We had brilliant sunshine all the way to Khaling, and Einar said he had never had such good weather and clear visibility at any time in Bhutan. The nature and landscape were a magnificent sight. We saw several monkeys along the way. All the shaking made us sleepy, but it was impossible to sleep for long because of all the bends, and the big bumps now and then, which caused us to roll around in the car. Bjørn and I made a buffer between us of coats and bags so we could sit a little more securely round tne bends. We did not take many pauses or stops and used about 23 hours to cover 360 miles. And yes. after this we were a little stiff in our joints and backs. Our driver was very good and pleasant, there was nothing to complain about there."

Safely arrived in Khaling the boys say they are doing well. The temperature is unfamiliar. Even though Norwegian Vikings are well used to the cold! While we warm up our houses to both 20 and 25 degrees, the inside temperature in Bhutan is much lower since they do not usually have heating.


[Photo: Bjørn Gulbrandsen and Trond Ausland in the classroom]

Train the Trainers

The idea behind the Bhutan project has always been to train the teachers. Five teachers were trained in Norway. The training included, among other things, ECDL certification and the use of computer assistive technology.
See the video of the presentation of the EDCL diplomas.

Four of the teachers have taught students at the school for the blind in Khaling. During their time in Norway the teachers were already starting to help others. The fifth teacher, Pema Chhoegyel, is responsible for a small ICT center in Paro, where he has started to help the blind with the PC and screen reader.

[Photo: Pema Chhoegyel in the classroom.]

The course currently underway is however something new!

On the rails so far

The course is now well underway. 10 students are participating. 8 uses the screen reader Jaws and 2 use the screen magnifier Magic.

Pema Chhoegyel says:

"Most of the course has been going according to plan. We are on track and that’s good. Our participants are able to keep our pace and it seems like we will finish the course in time."

Since their training in Norway, the teachers have made a special curriculum for a job- orientated course. The curriculum includes selected topics in Word, Email, use of the Web browser, etc

The start-up has not of course been 100% problem-free . The students have their own laptops. One laptop is faulty, and disabling the mouse on the laptops was a challenge. The mouse problem is now resolved, and our good partner UTA-Tech will fix the faulty PC as fast as they can. One of the blind participants says:

"I had no knowledge about computers at all before this course, so this has helped me a lot. The course has been very good and the teachers are very knowledgeable. I’m very happy to participate in this course.", Tshering Phuntsho

Good Luck

We wish the course participants, the teachers, and the Norwegian helpers good luck with the rest of the course!

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