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«SIMM ® EDUCATION A N D E M P L O Y M E N T OF THE BLIND - THE CASE OF WEST BENGAL Bikas C. Sanyal, P. K. Giri, M. Roychowdhury, A. K. Pati,. ...»

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In the previous chapter we have discussed the experience of employment» Attempts have also been made to study the view of the employers regarding the suitability of employment of the blind in different establishments. This may add a new dimension to the study.

To study this aspect¡. 13 employers were interviewed, of which 3 were from the chemicals and pharmaceuticals area of production. The others were one each from potteries, biscuit; metal box, tobacco, aluminium, electrics and electricals, cotton spinning and weaving, textile manufacturing and processing, hospital and mint - 6 of 'them belonged to the public sector, 6 to the private and one to the joint sector, It is obvious that the blind will not be in a position to do all types of job in their respective industrys In each industry some specific jobs have been allotted to them on the basis of their suitability. These incl-.ids bottle washing, nailing, cap fitting, packing (in chemical industries), processing and packing (in potteries), carton formation (in biscuit factories), sorting and reclaiming, sub-assembly type of work, bobbin cleaning, and switching and dressing, etc. It appears from the list of items of work that jobs of a repeditive nature which do not require much special skill have been allotted to the blind employees.

It is presumed that comparatively big industries/establishments have more opportunity to employ blind people due to the fact that they have various sections to process the product manufactured and have scope for work of a repetitive nature which they think suits well the blind peoplee Regarding the job performance of the blind workers, it has been found that quantum is average in the case of 10 establishments and lower in

-che case of 3 establishments., In no case has a higher quantum been reported.

As regards the quality of job it has been reported that 9 industries considered it fair, 2 indifferent, and 2 good. So far as their speed of work is concerned, it has been opined by the majority (9) of -the establishments, that it was average, whereas 4 have stated that it was slow» So, it is clear from the above that a high majority of the employing agencies do not

- 89 consider the blind people very productive» Such a view from employers is not conducive to improving the employment situation of the blind.

Turning to the quality of worker, it is found that in different aspects it differs. In the case of mobility, a maximum (10) of agencies said that the blind workers are fair,2 agencies,said that they are indifferent, whereas one said that they are good» As regards punctuality, 8 agencies stated that punctuality is good and 5 said that it is fair. In response to the query regarding the level of understanding, 6 agencies said that it is good, 5 said it is fair, and 2 said it is indifferent. Regarding deportment, 8 considered the blind workers as fair, 3 good and 2 indifferent« The relation with the co-workers is another aspect of the workers' quality.

In this aspect it is marked that a very high number of agencies (11) considered it good. Only one agency viewed it as fair and another one as indifferent. General behaviour of the blind workers has also been stated as good by 10 agencies«, Another 3 agencies considered it as fair.

So, the overall picture regarding the quality of workers is definitely encouraging. The opinion of the agencies is quite favourable in four areas viz. punctuality, understanding, relation with co-workers and deportment» No doubt these are the important components of workers' qualities. So, we may say that basically the quality of blind workers working in the selected thirteen establishments is satisfactory.

In response to our question of whether they were willing to appoint more blind workers, only 3 of them gave affirmative answers. All others (10) have decided not to appoint any more blind persons in their establishments. It envisages the fact that even if during the recent years the global rrend is to take care of the handicapped, the attitude of the employers is s c 11 very discouraging.

-i While making comments on the future prospect of blind employees, only respondents stated that they have the same prospects as other sighted employées0 Among the rest of the respondents 3 said that the prospects were very limited, 5 said that they do not have any future prospects, and one stated that the blind employees are unsuitable. One respondent has made no comments. This presents us with a gloomy picture of the career prospects of the blind, as perceived by the employers.

- 90 iether the blind employees need any more training has also been askedо In this context, 3 out of 13 respondents viewed this as necessary, whereas 7 others stated that there is no necessity for further training»

3 respondents have made no comments B Employers were asked about whether they are facing any problem by appointing the blind people0 In response to this, employers of 6 under­ takings have stated that they are not facing any special problem by appoin­ ting them» On the contrary, 7 employers have stated that they are facing some problems. Among these seven, 2 have said that the blind employees cannot be rotated in shifts, another 2 have said that they are capable of sane selective jobs only, hence their area of engagement is inflexibles One said that they require feedback every time as well as constant super­ vision, which creates problems for the management. One employer is of the opinion that ' h blind employees are unable to move without assistance in te departments with machines in operation, thereby creating a constant need for keeping watch on them. The thirteenth respondent to this question said that they cannot perform duties according to requirements. So, it is clearly visible that the majority of the employers (7 out of 13) are facing som-a problems by appointing the blind persons« Studying all these aspects, we find -that the majority of employers do not consider the appointment of the blind worthwhile, which is naturally very discouragingо Such a situation suggests giving careful consideration to training courses in future, placing them in proper agencies and rendering an adequate follow-up service..

- 91

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The present research, while concentrating on the trained blind, did not want to ignore completely the untrained blind, especially those who live on the illicit profession of begging. The type and extent of their blindness ¿ the family background - particularly education and income of the family

- availability of information on alternative career possibilities and their attitude towards education and regular employment were subjects of our enquiry based on personal interviews of only 19 beggars met on the street.

Only one of them was female; 7 of them were 19 years old or younger, the remaining 9 aged 20 years or more. 18 of them came from rural areas and only one from an urban area0 6 of "them were married. The following sections give the results of our interviews.

Type and extent of blindness The following table will represent the type and extent of blindness of the 19 people interviewed.

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Age when blinded and medical treatment All of those suffering from adventitious blindness became blind before the age of 6. In response to the query of whether they had received medical treatment, 18 (94e7%) responded that they had received medical treatment: and one said he did not receive any.

Educational background of parents The educational achievement of the families of the respondents show that most of them came from uneducated families. The situation is shown belowг

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Thus, 63.1% of the total blind beggars under review hailed from families without any education. 26.3% of them hailed from homes where only the father had some education and the mother none, and 5„3% of them belonged to families where both parents are somewhat educated. Correspondingly again, it is found that most of the respondents are also uneducated. Of the 19 respondents, 16 (84.2%) reported to have received no education at all and 3 (15.8%) had received some education (from Class IV to VIII).

Family income A survey of the income of the families of the respondents reveals that most of them are in utter poverty«, The income structure of the fami­

lies is as follows :

–  –  –

This high incidence of poverty is one of the factors that led to the traditional illiteracy of these families and this illiteracy again led to the ignorance of the parents about the availability of opportunities for the prevention and cure of blindnessa This situation again proves the fact that these unfortunate blind people had possibly no avenues open to them other than begging for their livelihood.

When asked about their own income from begging, 14 of them could not state anything and 5 of them said that they earned between Rs. 100 and Rs. 200 per month. It is, of course, true that begging does not yield a handsome amount, but begging is not unpaying also. A young blind man earning about Rs. 200 per month from his engagement in a sub-contract work­ shop indulges in begging every evening, not because it is an attraction to him, but because it is paying.

- 93 Status in family Six of the 19 felt that they were treated on an equal footing with others in the family, while 11 opined that they were looked upon as "inferior" to others in the family. Two of them were unable to assess their own position in the family« The attitude of the families towards the blind beggar is denigrating in so far as the majority of them is concerned. It can therefore be assumed that the want of confidence in themselves has been sufficiently contributed to by this negative attitude of the families.

Attitude towards education and employment The beggars again are not aware of what is happening in the country.

Asked about the need for education, training and employment for the blind, they replied that the blind are incapable of doing any work other than begging and that the question of arranging education and training for the blind did not arise at all.

The preceding account makes it clear that the root causes of the misfortune of the blind beggar are primarilys

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1. Principal findings of the study Based on the analysis in the preceding chapters, the principal findings

are summarized below:

1. Statistical information on the blind around the world is deplorably insufficient, and the same is true for the State of West Bengal in India.

2. In West Bengal, although the number of institutions for the blind has increased since Independence, the nature and quality of education imparted have not changed very much. However, the educators are becoming increasingly interested in the concept formation, mobility, daily living training and the integrated system of education that would cater for the special needs of the blind.

3. In respect of rehabilitation of the blind, the difficulties encountered are not only lack of job opportunities in general, but ignorance and apathy of the society, labour politics, lack of job-related training facilities, lack of co-ordination of programmes, lack of environmental facilities, and the behaviour and attitudes of the blind themselves.

4. The educational level of the parents of those blind persons who have undergone some kind of training compares favourably with the general educational level of the State.

5. The proportion of females with some kind of education/training is deplorably low; in our sample, only 8.4% of blind trained individuals were female.

6. The proportion of the blind belonging to scheduled castes and tribes (16.8%) with some kind of education/training compares favourably with the proportion of the group in the whole population of the State.

- 95 Three-quarters of the total population in our study became blind after birth. The risk of blindness reduces with increasing age. Some general diseases (e.g. typhoid, dystentry, pox, etc.) are responsible for almost three out of four cases of blindness.

S. Almost all the victims of blindness had undergone some kind of treatment, irrespective of their socio-economic background.

9. The cause of blindness is associated with parents' level of education. General disease and accidents proportional3.y are more often the cause of blindness for those individuals whose parents had no education.

10. Most of the blind (83%) who undertook training did so for employment possibilities; 'study for its own sake' comes a distant second with 49%.

11. Friends, parents and relatives are the most frequent source (62%) of information on training and education. The staff of educational institutions is the second source with 27% of the respondents.

Media and other general information sources play a very insignificant role in providing information on education/training opportunities for the blind. Whatever information was available was thought to be adequate by four out of five of the trained blind.

12. The candidate himself makes the decision on the choice of course in more than 45% of cases, and exerts as much influence as the institution itself. The guardian's role is insignificant. It would imply that as soon as the guardian gets his ward admitted to the institution, he appears to have felt relieved and does not care to know what his ward is doing afterwards.

13. Although academic fields of studies are the most popular, technical and agricultural courses - introduced only recently - are increasing in popularity with the blind students.

- 96 It is striking to note that some (8%) blind individuals have undergone training for 20 years. When a blind person trained in an institution does not obtain employment, he continues his training since this is available free of charge. The majority however (55.5%) had a training duration varying from 6 to 15 years.

15. Adjusted for non-response, the proportion of open employed with some kind of pre-employment programmes (counselling and guidance, orientation in actual job situation, extension lectures, in-plant training, etc.) was higher than that of self-employed and unemployed in that order (45%, 25% and 21% respectively).

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