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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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From table 3.3 we see that the percentage of parents having higher education is very poors 35„1% of the fathers had low level (maximum class VIII), 27.5% had medium level (IX to XII) and 11„7% had high level (graduate or postgraduate) education. The corresponding figures for mothers are 32.7, 7.0 and ie9 respectively.

So far as family income is concerned, the majority (51.4%) of the families had a monthly income of Rs„ 500 or more. A sizeable portion of families were economically very backward. Nearly one in every three families earned less than Rs. 350 a month. The median income of the families came to Rs. 514. Considering the price index number of the period, the income of the families could not be taken as satisfactory.

Table 3.4.

Family income (monthly)

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3.5 Nature, extent and cause of blindness and the treatment followed As regards the nature of blindness, it is observed that nearly 1 out of 4 is congenital (born blind) and the rest adventitious (i.e. developed blindness after birth).

The extent of blindness of the respondents is also different.

Whereas 50.5% of them are totally blind, 31.5% are in the "perception of light" grade, and the rest, 18%, are blind up to the extent of "residual vision".

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of the cases have been grouped under the heading "others". We observe that in 2 out of every three cases the general diseases caused blindness. It cannot be imagined by many people that diseases like dysentry, typhoid, etc.

may cause such a thing. From statistical tests it has been found that family income or residence region (rural or urban) has no bearing on the cause of blindness but education of the parents does effect it (see table A in appendix)„ Excepting a few respondents (only 3.2%), all had taken some treatment. A majority of them (72,1%) had taken the help of modern medicines, 0.9% had used "witchcraft", and 23.7% had used both the modern medicine and witchcraft«, So, whatever might be the social, economic and educational status of the families, they tried to obtain treatment. Maybe they tried at too late a stage and hence no poisitive results could be achieved.

3.6 Age when blinded 41% of the adventitious blind lost their vision within 5 years of age* Further to note is that 92 „2% of this group became blind within 20 years of age, and the rest, 7.8%, after the age of 20. It reflects clearly that whatever may be the reason, blindness is caused principally during childhood and youthhood. This gives us reason to be cautious regarding the possibility of blindness during early age, and therefore suggests that to tackle this problem steps should be taken from the prenatal stage itself.

- 43

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68 (40.7) 1-5 42 (25.1) 6-10 (16.7) 11 - 15 16 (9.6) 16 - 20 6 (3.6) 21 - 25 2 (1.2) 26 - 30 5 (3.0) 31 - 35

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4„i Reasons for pursuit of education Behind every act there is some motivation. The blind respondents of this study also had some motivation for joining the course.

The motivation may be created by the family members, friends or relatives.

It may even be created by the social environment in which they live.

The present study reveals the fact that a very high number of respondents (83%) had joined the courses with the expectation that it would give them a better employment opportunity. It is the most natural reason in the case of sighted persons also. Everybody wants a job. In the hard, competitive employment market one has no place unless one has a good academic training and/or vocational education» Even for successful seIf-employment one needs education0 Thus it is quite justifiable that a big majority of the respondents came for education with the hope that this could help them in securing a jobe But it must be remembered that some years back the blind people could not think that they could get jobs „like sighted persons,, So it may perhaps be that the respondents heard about or came across such blind people who had been employed because of their education, and being inspired for such a job that could make them economically independent, they came to pursue education.

The second in importance in our list of selected reasons is "study for its own sake", One out of every two respondents had this in mind also while joining the courses (one thing to be noted here is that multiple responses were permitted and some of the respondents had shown more than one reason for pursuit of their education)0 This group of respondents rightly deserve a word of praise if we can accept their responses to be genuine.

When illiteracy is so widespread, educational institutions for visually handicapped persons are so few, and again, when, for many, institutions are at far-off places, it is something to note that so many blind persons desired study for its own sake.

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they enrolled themselves in the educational institutions«, In the social setting of West Bengal this is a very common practice even among the nonhandicapped. This is found in the-case of education, marriage, and many other events of life. Most of the young men and women marry not at their will and choice but as per the wish of the parents. Some of the blind respondents had just maintained that tradition«, Besides these three reasons, a small group of respondents (3.5%) have opined that they have

taken training for "other" reasons«, This "other" may be:

(i) to improve social status, or (ii) to pass the time.

The above narrated facts will tell us that there is still scope for convincing the blind that they also can be self-sufficient human beings even if they have lost their vision. To bring them confidence is a major task before the concerned institutions and the Government, which should be undertaken with real earnestness.

4.2 Sources of information on education Regarding the source of information of education, it has been found

•that nearly 3 out of every 5 of the respondents received the information through their parents, relatives or friends. Staff of educational institutions came as the second important source of information. Nearly 27% of the respondents benefited by them. It is astonishing to see the sad role played by Government communication media in this respect. There are few institutions for the blind in the state, established either by the Government or private organisations^ and a good amount of money is spent every year in running these institutions« It is a prime duty of any

- 48 responsible government to see that the existing facilities may be insufficient and are fully utilised by the blinde The government should make adequate arrangements to ensure that blind persons scattered all over the state know about the facilities available for their education« It is a pity to note t l at only 12 о 7% of the respondents received the information from general i information sources«, Doctors played a minor role,- they supplied infor­ mation to 7с5% of the respondents« Table 4C2„ Sources of information for education

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So far as the adequacy of the information is concerned, nearly one-fifth of the respondents thought that it was inadequate and for the rest it was sufficient« 4a 3 Selection of courses in education In more than 45% of the cases respondents had undertaken courses according to their own choice0 Obviously, they chose those courses which they thought would suit them and would be useful for them afterwards. In aii exactly equal number of cases? the institutions took the decision in this matter» A look at table 4*3 will show that an insignificant role was played by guardians and others„ Our experience is that once a boy or girl is admitted to an institution, his/her guardians feel greatly relieved and seldom take care to know what the boy or girl does afterwards. In most cases the institution takes or is forced to take the role of the guardians.

- 49 Table 4„3. Selection of course

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When asked if they were satisfied with the course, the response was in the affirmative in 97e 7% of the cases. It is indeed gratifying to note that the institutions could satisfy their trainees to such a big extent.

What happened to the trainees afterwards is a difficult thing. That 40% of them remained unemployed after taking one or more courses which they thought to be satisfactory, is likely to indicate that courses were not very meaningful for the employment market, or that for the blind academic training and/or vocational training are not the only pre-requisites for being employed (we shall come to this later)„ As regards the type of courses taken, we find that academic education tops the list with nearly three-fourths of the candidates having a varied extent from acquaintance with the 3 Rs to post-graduate level.

Next come crafts, weaving, knitting, etc», which were considered together under the heading "others". 35„6% of the respondents had training in one or more branches in this category„ It is closely followed by technical education, opted by 32.9%, and music 29.3%. Agriculture and animal husbandry, which came rather late in the list of courses offered by the institutions, was chosen by about 1 out of 5 respondents. It is to be noted that one could take more than one type of course. However, the information gathered in this section might be an eye-opener for many. There are people, not few in number, who think that, besides academic education, blind are eligible for training in music, basket-making, weaving and the like. They cannot imagine that blind persons are capable of taking agriculture and animal husbandry as their subjects of study, or technical education that requires working with lathe machines, drilling machines, etc»

- 50 Table 4o4c Type of course taken by respondents

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4.4 Duration of studies ~By duration of studies of a respendent we mean the sum of years spent by him/her while taking the different courses of study. Table 5.4 shows that the duration varied from 1 year to 30 years. It is easily understood that some of the respondents could not make much progress and had to leave after a short period of time, but it is difficult to find a meaning for a duration as long as 30 years. In our sample we find that as many as 7«8% of the respondents continued studies for over 20 years. It is very likely that such respondents went on taking one course after another since they did not find it easy to get a regular job or self-employment opportunity after completing one or two courses. In fact, in our survey we have come across such respondents who had training in music, technical education, agriculture and crafts, besides academic training at the lower level« Table 4.5. Duration of respondents' education in years

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42 (19.3) 1-5 6-10 59 (27.1) 11 - 15 62 (28.4) 16 - 20 38 (17.4) 21 - 25 13 (6.0) 26 - 30 4 (1.8)

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We tried to examine the effect of residence region, sex, duration of parents' education and family income on length of respondent's education* It was observed that while region of home (rural/urban) and parents' education had statistically significant influence on the length of respon­ dents education, sex and family income did not have any significant influence a

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Statistical significance of the coefficients would mean statistically sig­ nificant, relationships of the attached variable with the dependent variable.

A positive sign of the regression coefficient would mean the relation is positive and a negative sign would indicate an inverse relationship.

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5.1 Objectives In this chapter, we will discuss a very crucial period in the stages of rehabilitation of the blind in West Bengal. The transition from education to regular placement is not smooth and automatic« The hurdles are so difficult to overcome that sometimes the blind job-seekers may have to wait for nine or more years after finishing education. In our survey, we tried to find out the factors responsible for such inordinate delays, and to assess the effect of waiting on the client and his rehabilitation.

We think that a little gap - the length of time depending on the nature of training and the personal qualities of the trainee - is necessary because it is difficult for a blind man to cope with the competitive and open employment situation without any prior preparation for it. He must have a transition period between his protected and controlled training situation and the unprotected world, 5o2 Pre-employment programmes and the role of stop-gap jobs The time-gap between education and regular placement may be divided into two types. The first is necessary for pre-employment training and the second is compulsory due to the very tight employment situation in the State and the lack of organised rehabilitation efforts0 The pre-employment

programmes consist of:

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The pre-employment programmes attended by the respondents of this survey are shown in table 5.1. There are so many cases of non-response, especially among the unemployed, that it is difficult to know the real situation. If we consider only the persons who responded to this query, we find that nearly 56% from the unemployed group attended one or more pro­ grammes; the corresponding figures for open-employed and self-employed are 55% and 42%e It indicates a negative effect of pre-employment programmes

- 55 which is difficult for one to accept» It is very likely that most of the non-responses came from persons who did not attend any programme. If we assume that none of them joined any programme, the percentages for openemployed,, self-employed and unemployed groups become 48, 25 and 21 respectively. Whichever of the two sets of figures we do accept, it is clear that proper emphasis had not been put on pre-employment programmes regarding this item. But that does not mean that they remain idle for a long time.

Generally most of the trained persons are given jobs in the sub-contract workshops attached to different institutions. They come to the workshop every day from their own places to earn wages on the piece-rate basis. The working conditions are rigorous with rigid rules of attendance, leave, etc.

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