Visually Impaired Children Get the Education They Need in Macedonia

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 Reading and writing Braille enabled Barbara Vasilevska to learn at a much faster pace
Reading and writing Braille enabled Barbara Vasilevska to learn at a much faster pace
Children with Visual Impairment Project
Extra support, activities allow students to succeed with peers
“My daughter now has the same opportunities as other children her age.”

September 2018 — Hailing from Bitola, a small town in southwestern Macedonia, Barbara Vasilevska was diagnosed with eye nerve atrophy at the tender age of 7. Her parents were very concerned about her education prospects and wondered if there was a special school she could go to in her town, if she would be able to cope without additional support, and if she would be one of the only children in Bitola with this problem.

In 2016, Barbara’s parents enrolled her in the Bitola Resource Center established by the Children with Visual Impairments Project, a partnership between USAID and the Lions Club International Foundation. She started attending classes four times a week and, for the very first time, she had real access to formal education. With a lot of hard work and support from her special educators, within a few months, she was ready for a mainstream primary school in Bitola.

Barbara felt accepted by her teacher and peers at school and continued to visit the resource center four times a week for help with all the new activities she was being exposed to at the school. In addition to literacy, she had physical exercises to strengthen her orientation and coordination skills. She participated in creative workshops, visited art studios, and even learned how to play the piano.

Despite her ability to read and write in large print, Barbara’s progress was slow due to the volume of educational materials she had to study. Eventually, she was introduced to Braille, which made reading and writing much easier. Barbara was finally learning at a much faster pace and successfully completed first and second grades.

She recently began the new academic year as a third grader and still has the support of her peers, teachers, personal assistant, and special educators at the resource center.

“I love reading and learning new things. I am very excited about my piano classes. Music and singing make me extremely happy,” says Barbara.

Her family is extremely proud of her success. “There are no words to express my gratitude. My daughter now has the same opportunities as other children her age. A few years ago, I could not have imagined it,” says Elica Vasilevska, Barbara’s mother.

Since 2015, the Children with Visual Impairments Project has established five resource centers in cities and towns across Macedonia. The five-year project has conducted over 23,000 free eye screenings for children in kindergarten and trained over 200 special educators across the country. The project organizes inclusive sports, art and other outdoor activities for nearly 100 impaired children on a regular basis.


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