Buigiri Braille School

Buigiri School for the Blind has an outstanding track record in Tanzania’s national examinations for pupils graduating from primary education: between 2001 and 2010, the school always came in the top one per cent of all the 14,000 Tanzanian primary schools; in 2006 it came sixth in the country.

Anglican Aid is currently funding the creation and printing of braille textbooks for the Buigiri School for the Blind. The school, near Tanzania’s capital, Dodoma, generally has up to 60 children with visual impairments and up to 10 with severe visual impairment. There are 26 able-bodied pupils.

The Anglican Diocese of Central Tanganyika owns the school, and although the Tanzanian government pays the 23 teachers (10 of whom are themselves blind) and for the children’s food, the diocese pays all other costs.

Although the hard-pressed Tanzanian Government cannot provide any funds for the project, the Deputy Minister of Education has committed that if the required 30,000 AUD is raised, he will ensure the government’s Braille printing press will prioritise the school’s requirement, as a “thankyou” for what he called “angel funding”!

Direct Deposit donations can be made to our bank account BSB 032078, Account Number 253522, Account Name: Overseas Relief and Aid. Please email the office with details of your donation at enquiries@anglicanaid.org.au. Cheques can be posted to – PO Box Q190, QVB Post Office, 1230, NSW.

All donations to this project are tax deductible.

ABN 59 792 865 372

Donations to this project will be used for this project only.

  • Praise God for the Buigiri School for the Blind, which is a primary boarding school for blind children, owned and managed by the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, Anglican Church of Tanzania. The school has 100 pupils - 59 are totally blind, 11 have severe visual impairment and 30 are fully sighted.
  • Pray for sufficient funding for the completion of Anglican Aid’s project to provide pupils with textbooks in Braille.
  • Pray for Head Teacher, Mr Sylivanus Hosea, who is himself blind. Pray he will continue to lead the school with great wisdom and energy.

1120 Textbooks – And All in Braille

Annual Report - July 2014

A  REMARKABLE school for blind children in Tanzania has embarked on an ambitious project to provide its pupils with textbooks in Braille, and the Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid is funding 1120 books plus teachers’ guides which will also be in Braille.

Buigiri School for the Blind is a primary boarding school for blind children, owned and managed by the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, Anglican Church of Tanzania. Of the school’s 100 pupils, 59 are totally blind, 11 have severe visual impairment and 30 are fully sighted.

The school has a remarkable head teacher, Mr Sylivanus Hosea, who is himself blind. He leads the school with great wisdom and amazing energy. From 2001-2010, the school came in the top one per cent of all primary schools in the country in the national examinations for pupils graduating from primary education – that is, in the top 130 out of 13,000 schools. In 2006, the school achieved its best result when it came sixth in the country – an extraordinary achievement.

However, for several years Mr Hosea had warned that because the school had no Braille textbooks, its pupils were at a major disadvantage: as the government gradually began supplying textbooks for the sighted pupils in all its schools, the Buigiri children were in danger of being left behind. From 2011, the school has slipped to being in the top 11 per cent of all primary schools – still very good, but below the standard Mr Hosea expected from his pupils.

In 2000, the school was destitute. Its sole major sponsor had withdrawn in 1995, since it simply could no longer support existing commitments and a hard decision had to be taken. For five years the school was in an ever more desperate position. The Bishop of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika decided in early 2001 to launch the Buigiri School for the Blind Project, with the aim of raising sufficient funds to rescue the school, to pay the diocese’s regular contribution to the running costs and to completely revamp the school.

The project’s chairman is the Dodoma Regional Commissioner, the top Government representative in central Tanzania, and the members of the Project Committee are a retired Tanzanian ambassador and leading Anglican, whose father had been the priest at Buigiri when the school was founded in 1950; the Diocesan General Secretary; and the Diocese’s business adviser. The outcome has been a campaign to involve the Tanzanian Government ever more closely in the running and financing of this remarkable school, and a determined effort to raise funds to that the regular financial input to the school by the Diocese can be put on a sustainable footing.

The Diocese of Central Tanganyika asked the Diocese of Sydney for financial help so that Buigiri School could receive Braille textbooks for every pupil in every subject in class – a total of 560 books. But the request was for double this number because Braille textbooks will wear out over time as the children move their fingers over the characters. This meant 1120 books were needed, plus teachers’ guides in Braille, because 11 of the 20 or so staff are blind.

Brian Atkins, business adviser to the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, says: “We have been immensely grateful for the most generous assistance of Peter Hutchison, of the Diocese of Sydney. He is a great supporter of the school and has provided splendid help to the school through some very difficult periods since the inception of the project. In particular Peter has made a regular, substantial contribution to the school, and has assisted us to formulate the Braille the Braille textbooks project. He identified whom we might approach within the Diocese of Sydney. We are hugely grateful for all his help.”

Accordingly, the Diocese of Central Tanganyika asked the Diocese of Sydney for financial help so that Buigiri School could receive Braille textbooks for every pupil in every subject in class – a total of 560 books. But the request was for double this number because Braille textbooks will wear out over time as the children move their fingers over the characters. This meant 1120 books were needed, plus teachers’ guides in Braille, because 11 of the 20 or so staff are blind.

The late Bishop of Central Tanganyika, Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo, was in Australia in early 2013 and met ORAF management: his request was for AUD$40,000 and the Diocese of Sydney agreed to support the project.

The project took several months to launch, as Central Tanganyika Diocese had to contract with the Tanzania Education Ministry, whose Tanzania Braille Printing Press – which the UN recently supplied with a state-of-the-art electronic Braille printer – is producing the books.

All textbooks, except those for teaching English, must be in Swahili. When a Braille textbook is to be produced, the normal Swahili textbook must first be scanned. Then, using specialist software, the text is converted into Swahili Braille. Quality assurance is a key task to ensure an accurate translation has been made. Then printing can start.   

Typically, each textbook will translate into a Braille textbook with three volumes, because Braille takes much more space on the page than normal printed text – so the diocese is expecting more than 3000 volumes to be printed as a part of this contract.

Brian Atkins, who is business adviser to the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, says: “We are deeply grateful to the Diocese of Sydney for all their help. The contract may extend into two or even three years, but every effort is being made to hasten the supply to the school. To date we have received during the past three months over 550 volumes, so a good start has been made.”

The Tanzanian Government pays most of the expenses for the school, including all teachers’ salaries, food for the blind and severely visually impaired children and diesel fuel to enable transport for these children to and from their homes at the beginning and end of each term.

However, it is only through the help of the school’s supporters, in Australia and elsewhere, that the diocese can fund most of the non-teaching staff, plus electricity, water, firewood, transport, building maintenance and the Braille paper and equipment which are essential. The diocese also has to supply, maintain and insure the school’s truck and motorbike.

“The Buigiri School for the Blind is now the Centre for Excellence in Tanzania for the teaching of blind and severely visually impaired children at primary level,” Brian Atkins says. “The school is on a journey. There is still much to be done, but the progress in the past 12-plus years means that these children now have the opportunity of a sound primary education, the possibility of a secondary education as the Diocese has also opened a blind unit in one of its secondary schools.

“For the future we hope they may have the opportunity of a job, even a career. One former pupil is the Dean of Education in the Open University of Tanzania. He is totally blind.”